Turmeric and Heart Health
A more playful alternative title suggested for this article might be ‘I Heart Turmeric.’ In fact, a more accurate title would be, ‘Turmeric Hearts Your Heart.’ This unassuming little spice is an absolute powerhouse of healthy heart benefits. But unlike most pharmaceuticals, it comes with no nasty side effects.
These days, cases of heart disease are rising among younger and younger patients. It’s clear that there’s more to do to prevent—and treat—this major killer. We know that a lack of exercise and an excess of junk food can increase our chances of developing heart problems. But apart from getting more active and improving our diet, is there anything else we can do to help?
Using Turmeric Post-Bypass Surgery
During bypass surgery, the muscles of the heart can become damaged due to the lack of oxygen. This leads to an increased risk of a heart attack.
In a study of 121 post-bypass patients conducted at Chiang Mai University, 13% of those who received curcumin went on to have a heart attack. Compare that to the 30% who received a placebo.
As a result, the same study found that patients who received curcumin had lower inflammation and oxidative stress markers in their blood.1
Turmeric as an Anti-Inflammatory
We talk about turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties a lot, for good reason. Turmeric’s impact on inflammation is what makes it such an effective alternative to NSAIDs in cases of arthritis.
It’s for this reason that turmeric is so beneficial to improving various heart conditions, including:
Cardiac fibrosis (abnormal thickening of the heart valves),
Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), and
Cardiotoxicity (damage to the heart muscle).2
Turmeric and Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis is the build-up of plaque inside the arteries. It affects blood flow to the heart and other parts of the body by hardening and narrowing the arteries.
This serious condition can cause heart attacks, stroke, and as a result, can even prove fatal.
A study conducted in France in 2009 showed that using curcumin can reduce the fatty deposits which can lead to atherosclerosis by over 25%.
Turmeric also contains vitamin B6. This regulates the homocysteine (amino acid) levels—too much of which can damage blood vessels and contribute to plaque build-up.
Turmeric and Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy substance, rather like fat, made in the liver, and is also found in some foods. Low-density lipoproteins—LDLs, aka ‘bad’ cholesterol—can lead to a build-up in the arteries.
If the arteries affected are the ones in the heart, blood flow can slow down or stop. The can lead to angina (a type of chest pain) and even a heart attack.
A study published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology found that patients who received curcumin every day for seven days had a 33% drop in LDL levels.
Not all cholesterol is bad. High-density lipoproteins (or, HDLs) redirect cholesterol back to the liver, where it breaks down and gets eliminated from the body naturally. That same study found a 29% increase in patients’ HDL levels.3
Turmeric and Blood Thinning
Clotting is a vital action in the body. It’s what causes scabs to form and thus stop bleeding from cuts and wounds.
When thrombosis occurs, a blood clot forms in one of the veins, restricting or blocking the flow of blood. Hence if the clot forms in the heart, this can lead to a heart attack. Thinning the blood is an effective way of reducing the risk and one of the most common ways of doing this is with Aspirin. Yet taking Aspirin can have serious repercussions, such as gastrointestinal bleeding.
Turmeric is a natural anticoagulant, or blood thinner. It works by inhibiting the clotting factors in the blood, thus reducing the risk of thrombosis.
Heart health should be at the forefront of everybody’s mind, and yet we neglect it or put off thinking about it. It’s very much a case of it won’t happen to me.
Side effects from pharmaceuticals can sometimes be as bad as the condition they’re treating. Therefore, taking turmeric is a simple, natural step towards maintaining good heart health.