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Will Adequate Magnesium Keep Your Heart Healthy?

A long-term study of atherosclerosis revealed that adequate magnesium is critical for good heart health. A supplement could help.

Magnesium has long been a neglected mineral.  Health care providers are more likely to pay attention to minerals such as potassium, although some of the same drugs that lead to potassium depletion also affect magnesium. On the other hand, scientists have evidence that adequate magnesium levels are critical for maintaining good vitamin D levels. How does magnesium affect your heart? One reader shared a fascinating story suggesting that low magnesium could interfere with heart rhythm.

Did Low Magnesium Contribute to Irregular Heartbeat?

Q. I have suffered from an irregular heartbeat for 30 years. A cardiologist had me taking magnesium citrate daily, but I eventually quit taking it. I don’t remember why.

When I started having heartburn last fall, I had to start taking omeprazole. My irregular heartbeat came back in spades! It happened more often, and the episodes lasted longer.

I asked my nurse practitioner if I could go back on magnesium. After restarting the supplement, my irregular heartbeat is noticeably improved! I have fewer episodes by far, and they don’t last long.

A. According to the Japanese Adverse Event Report Database, proton pump inhibitors like omeprazole can lead to low levels of magnesium (Pharmazie, Sept. 1, 2022).  The authors recommend regular measurement of serum magnesium levels for people on PPIs. Magnesium deficiency can trigger irregular heart rhythms. Consequently, we believe that when you got adequate magnesium, it helped restore your normal heartbeat.

Adequate Magnesium for Heart Health:

For years, nutrition scientists suspected that magnesium is important for heart health. A few years ago, a study confirmed their suspicions (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Jan. 2020).

Researchers evaluated more than 14,000 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC) over 27 years. Those with low serum magnesium early in the study were 28% more likely to develop coronary artery disease than those with the highest levels. This link was stronger among women than among men.

Scientists still don’t know whether increasing serum magnesium with supplements or dietary adjustments would reduce the risk of heart disease. Serum levels do not actually tell the whole story on whether one has adequate magnesium in the body. Most magnesium is located in the cells rather than in the bloodstream.

How Much Magnesium Do You Need?

The recommended dietary allowance of magnesium changes with age. For males 19 to 30 years old, it is 400 mg per day, but increases to 420 mg for men over 30. For women, the allowance is 310 mg between ages 19 and 30, increasing to 320 over 30. Pregnant and lactating women have higher needs. Most people tolerate a magnesium supplement such as magnesium citrate up to about 300 mg per day. Higher levels can cause diarrhea and may also put a strain on the kidneys. People with kidney disease should not take magnesium supplements.

Magnesium-Rich Foods:

Foods like leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes are rich in magnesium and can help people maintain adequate magnesium levels. Some possibly unexpected sources: edamame, peanut butter, avocado, yogurt and dark chocolate.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Yamashiro K et al, "Adverse event profiles of hypomagnesemia caused by proton pump inhibitors using the Japanese Adverse Drug Event Report (JADER) Database." Pharmazie, Sept. 1, 2022. DOI: 10.1691/ph.2022.2416
  • Rooney MR et al, "Serum magnesium and the incidence of coronary artery disease over a median 27 years of follow-up in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study and a meta-analysis." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Jan. 2020. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqz256
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