heart disease

Magnesium: The Protector Against Heart Disease

It is a fact that more than 50% of Americans are magnesium deficient.

I cannot stress enough the importance of recognizing magnesium deficiency as a serious health problem here in the United States.

Magnesium plays a key role in more than 350 enzymes in the body and is involved in virtually every metabolic process. Its involvement is significant with overall cardiovascular health, blood pressure regulation and muscle relaxation. A deficiency in magnesium, referred to as hypomagnesemia, has been associated with cardiac arrhythmias, ischemic heart disease, sudden cardiac death, hypertension, transient ischemic attacks (TIA), and stroke. Interestingly, cardiovascular disease research studies dating as far back as 1937 found that a low magnesium level, and not cholesterol or saturated fat intake, is probably the greatest predictor of all aspects of heart disease.

Researcher Andrea Rosanoff, PhD, Director of Research & Science Information Outreach Center for Magnesium Education & Research, Pahoa, HI, conducted an ongoing comprehensive review of magnesium and cardiovascular disease for over 10 years, building upon work originally done by Mildred Seelig, MD, who studied this relationship for over 40 years. Rosanoff discovered that low magnesium was shown to be associated with all known cardiovascular risk factors, such as cholesterol and high blood pressure, atherogenesis, hardening of the arteries and the calcification of soft tissues.

According to Dr. Rosanoff, “By 1957 low magnesium was shown to be, strongly, convincingly, a cause of atherogenesis and the calcification of soft tissues. But this research was widely and immediately ignored as cholesterol and the high saturated-fat diet became the culprits to fight.” Since then, research has continued to show that low magnesium is associated with cardiovascular risk factors.

In addition, Dr. Rosanoff noted that after years and years of Americans focusing solely on increasing dietary calcium intake without paying equal attention to magnesium, dietary calcium-to-magnesium ratios have increased over time, and research shows that calcium supplementation that is not balanced with magnesium can actually contribute to an increased risk of heart disease.

Sources of magnesium

Magnesium gets its name from the Greek region Magnesia, near where it was first discovered. It is the central ion of chlorophyll, making leafy green vegetables one of the best food sources of this mineral. Other sources include nuts and seeds, legumes, and whole, unrefined grains. One thing to consider, however, is that the presence of phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors in grains and legumes may interfere with magnesium absorption, unless steps are taken to neutralize these substances through specific preparation and cooking techniques such as soaking, sprouting, or fermentation. Also, many common prescription drugs are known to deplete magnesium, including certain oral contraceptives, antacids, diuretics, and antibiotics.

How much magnesium is enough?

Unfortunately, we do not have a great way to measure magnesium status. For example, serum magnesium represents only 1% of the body’s magnesium stores. Magnesium is homeostatically controlled in the serum and measuring serum magnesium levels provides many false negatives. By the time your serum magnesium is low, you are very deficient, meaning that the body cannot maintain the serum magnesium levels. So, serum magnesium is not the answer. Magnesium RBC is definitely better and can be done by most labs and all functional medicine labs. I test RBC magnesium levels on all my patients and it is surprising to see how many patients who are deficient in this critical mineral.

In addition, for patients with high blood pressure and other cardiovascular-related conditions, it is important to assess other minerals such as potassium, magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium, and calcium, as well as laboratory markers that include cardio CRP, homocysteine, fibrinogen, CoQ10, and vitamin D 25-OH.
Guest blog by Designs for Health