Magnesium and Heart Health: What You Should Know
Heart Disease and Cardiovascular Disease are leading health problems in North America, globally contributing to the greatest number of deaths due to a health condition in many populations.
So it’s not surprising that much information is shared and distributed with respect to common contributing factors as well as suggestions on what to do to prevent this from happening and how to treat it when it does.
That being said, sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all the changes and ongoing research, evidence and theories. For the longest time, fat, especially saturated fat, was seen as the enemy, so society switched to a low-fat approach.
Then it was specifically cholesterol. Recently the shift has been to sugar and the effects of a high glycemic diet… which, by the way, was the end result of the low fat craze- foods with more sugar to make up for taste and satiety.
Now some research, aspects of it decades old, shows that low magnesium levels may actually be more important than cholesterol and saturated fat, especially as it relates to sudden cardiac deaths.
Andrea Rosanoff, PhD, has been active in carrying forward this research and the role magnesium plays in heart health. Magnesium is involved in hundreds of chemical reactions in the body and has a role in many important functions that are carried out on a second by second basis in the body.
So what should you know when it comes to magnesium and heart health?
Let’s start with some background information on magnesium itself. Magnesium plays a part in energy production, cell growth, blood pressure, bone health and heart/nerve/muscle function.
From our diets, we obtain magnesium from a variety of foods including soybeans, cashews, almonds, baked beans, peanuts, dark leafy green vegetables, fish, avocados, seeds and whole grains.
When magnesium is at low levels in the body, common problems that can result include arrhythmias, oxidative stress, blood vessel damage, angina and low HDL cholesterol.
Common signs or symptoms that someone may notice with low magnesium levels might be muscle weakness, cramps, spasms, anxiety, constipation, kidney stones, decreased sleep and restless leg syndrome.
Interestingly, the highest levels of magnesium in the body are found in the heart, especially on the left side of the heart, the part of the heart muscle responsible for pumping blood into the rest of the body. The second highest levels are found in the brain.
Magnesium’s task in the heart is to maintain a normal heart rhythm by controlling how much calcium goes in and out of the cells which in turn controls their contraction.
If there’s not enough magnesium present, too much calcium is allowed to get in and stay in the cell causing abnormal contractions leading to angina (a pain in the chest) and even a heart attack itself.
Magnesium also helps to ensure that calcium gets into the cells of other tissues properly as well, like bone.
Without adequate amounts of magnesium, calcium can be left in the blood stream and eventually end up in soft tissues like the blood vessels themselves leading to arterial disease.
With all these important roles and with so many foods that contain magnesium, one would wonder why anyone would be deficient in this vital mineral.
As it turns out with so many aspects of our lifestyle, we do things that challenge our body’s ability to keep up with its duties. Because magnesium is so heavily involved in these physiological processes, it can be depleted faster when the challenges increase.
Conditions like acid reflux, Crohn’s Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, among others, can deplete magnesium levels faster or inhibit its absorption. Intake of coffee, soda and alcohol can use up more magnesium as can increased stress levels.
To top it off, modern farming methods and historical agricultural methods have lowered the available magnesium levels in the soils leaving our foods with less magnesium content versus the same foods from the same fields 50 years ago.
Therefore, when it comes to magnesium and heart health, what you should know is that supplementation could play a valuable role in complimenting your lifestyle to help control the factors involved with heart disease, arterial disease and many other health problems as well.
Magnesium is generally seen as a safe and effective supplement especially in those cases where it can help stave off the negative effects of prescriptions and other treatment side effects by avoiding the health problems in the first place.
A recommended daily intake is around 320 mg per day for women and 420 mg per day for men.
People taking certain medications and who have certain conditions like kidney disease should speak with their health care provider first before taking magnesium or any other supplements.
Like vitamin C, magnesium is often taken for bowel tolerance and when diarrhea, nausea and/or cramps are noticed, it is time to back off the dose.
Supplements are designed to complement our diets, not to replace the healthy choices we want to be making.
However, it’s often challenging to not only meet all our needs through diet but close to impossible to have a therapeutic effect through nutrients without high quality supplements that have formulations based on the leading, independent evidence.
When it comes to what you should know with heart health and magnesium, understand that the benefits are well supported and a good plan to balance your nutrients with your desired health outcomes is possible to create.