The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 18 No. 4 • August 2015

After a Heart Attack: Promoting Cardiac Repair and Reducing Cardiac Dysfunction

Following a heart attack, a patient is likely to be placed on a number of prescription drugs to help prevent further deterioration (which often takes place, with the eventual development of heart failure) and to help natural healing processes. Still, the number of heart attack patients that eventually develop heart failure is increasing (Wang, 2012) as a result of maladaptive cardiac repair, with the formation of non-contractile scar tissue formation one of the primary problems (Wang, 2012).

It has been reported (Wang, 2012) that “few of the drugs that inhibit scar tissue formation, promote cardiac repair and thereby improve cardiac function after reperfusion have gained clinical acceptance for a routine treatment of MI [myocardial infarction] patients.” Therefore, the researchers here have tested the utility of curcumin, a major constituent of turmeric root and a powerful anti-inflammatory molecule with anti-fibrotic properties (Wang, 2012) in the treatment of Sprague-Dawley rats given experimentally induced heart attacks.

The results showed a number of biochemical changes indicative of improved repair and reduced malfunction: reduced level of malondialdehyde (breakdown product of lipid peroxidation), inhibition of MMPs (matrix metalloproteinases, enzymes that break down proteinaceous tissues, preserved ECM (extracellular matrix) from degradation and attenuated collagen deposition (part of the scar forming process) and fibrosis (scar tissue) in the ischemic/reperfused myocardium. As part of its antifibrotic effects, curcumin significantly down-regulated the expression of TGFbeta1 (transforming growth factor beta one) and phospho-Smad2/3 (mediators of TGFbeta1) and upregulated Smad7 (has opposing effect to Smad2/3). Echocardiography was reported to show a significantly improved left ventricular end-diastolic volume, stroke volume and ejection fraction.

Method: Rats were subject to 45 minutes of ischemia followed by 7, 21, and 42 days of reperfusion respectively. Curcumin was fed to the ischemia-treated rats orally at a dose of 150 mg/kg per day only during reperfusion.

This is a small but convincing study, using a common animal model for a heart attack that includes the blockage of blood flow and its subsequent reinitiation. The very extensive testing and measurements of major players in the events that take place during and after a heart attack shows very well how the curcumin made a very important difference in how the animals’ hearts recovered from the severity of a heart attack. The authors of the study suggest that “[c]urcumin has potential as a treatment for patients who have had a heart attack.”

Turmeric root contains other constituents, including curcuminoids with even more powerful antioxidant, antiinflammatory, and immunostimulatory effects than curcumin (Chakravarty, 2009). The authors (Chakravarty, 2009) explain that “[p]urification of curcumin eliminates several substances present in the whole extract of turmeric ...” including the antioxidant protein beta-turmerin, turmerone, ar-turmerone, zingiberene, complex arabinogalactan, sesquiterpenes, pinenes, eugenol, limonene, and other substances. “The present study intends to recommend use of turmeric [ethanolic turmeric extract] over curcumin whenever possible.” We, too, recommend the use of turmeric root. Incidentally, the Chakravarty et al paper also notes that it is an age-old custom in India to have oral intake of 5-10 grams of turmeric rhizome with molasses in the morning on an empty stomach. Durk calculated that the dose of curcumin given to the rats was 5 to 10 times the amount found in the traditional Indian turmeric supplemental dose. Because curcumin is more readily absorbed from turmeric root powder than it is as pure curcumin, the differences in the dose is not as great as it appears.


  • Wang, Wang, Tootie, et al. Curcumin promotes cardiac repair and ameliorates cardiac dysfunction following myocardial infarction. Br J Pharmacol. 167:1550-62 (2012).
  • Chakravarty, Chatterjee, Yasmin, Mazumder. Comparison of efficacy of turmeric and commercial curcumin in imunological functions and gene regulation. Int J Pharmacol. 5(6):333-45 (2009).

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