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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.
Products rich in magnesium on wooden spoons.

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?

Adequate Magnesium for Heart Health:

For years, nutrition scientists have suspected that magnesium is important for heart health. A new study confirms 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.

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.

Learn far more about the importance of magnesium in Dr. Tieraona Low Dog’s excellent book, Fortify Your Life: Your Guide To Vitamins, Minerals and More.

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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. .
Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and More

Fortify Your Life gives you the evidence-based information you need to decide whether you need a supplement and which format and dose would be best.

Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and More
  • 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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All during my childbearing years I suffered from cramps and just feeling awful for several days. Why didn’t someone think to check magnesium levels or recommend it? When I mentioned hearing about it relieving cramps, my doctor’s response was,”Of course, that’s what they give women after delivering a baby, to stop cramping!” Tell everyone you know who suffers from monthly cramps about magnesium!

My cardiologist recommended that I take a magnesium supplement to help treat my PVCs. I took Magnesium Oxide at first but it was causing diarrhea so I switched to Magnesium glycinate. This is working better, and I am having fewer PVCs.

I had a single episode of A-fib and did quite a bit of research on this. I now take 400-600 mg of Magnesium glycinate/lycinate which is much less likely to cause diarrhea than the citrate. Since that time I have not had another episode of A-fib but do occasionally have an episode of tachycardia at night. If I remember to take the pm dosage of Magnesium this does not happen.

You mention that serum levels of magnesium are not indicative of the amount that is in the body’s cells, where it is most needed. But the common blood test for mg levels measures only the serum level. That is why the daily requirement is probably too low. We use several sources: ionic mg in liquid form with trace minerals, powdered magnesium drinks are the main ones, along with foot soaks using bath flakes. One can make “magnesium oil” from those flakes, and spray it on the skin, for transdermal ingestion. I did that for several months until I began to feel better, when I had a major heart problem, then cut back to about 900mg per day, using foot soak, ionic liquid mega mag, and CALM drinks.

Your observations on assessing magnesium status are on target. Judging the dose from foot soaks or transdermal exposure could be tricky.

Very good info. I did not know this. Always good info on this site.

My 92-year-old uncle did himself in by over-doing the magnesium. He ended up on dialysis and died a few short months later. Go easy.

Also check out Dr. Carolyn Dean’s book on magnesium –called the “Magnesium Miracle”. It is amazing that magnesium is involved in 1000 enzyme systems in our bodies, and it is so easy to be deficient.

Excellent Article ❤️

A few years ago I developed Afib. In researching causes I learned that long term magnesium deficiency is a major factor is developing Afib. In my case it was exacerbated by being on a water pill. At the time, I was obese (300 lbs) and had edema issues. The water pill I was on (hydroclorothiazide) has been shown in studies to deplete electrolytes & is a major factor in Afib. So it was a double whammy. I was also on BP meds & then put on Eliquis for blood thinning. Since then I’ve lost 100 lbs & and had an ablation done for the Afib. Currently I’m off all meds & have never felt better. To insure that the Afib never returns, along with other supplements I now supplement daily with 500 mg magnesium. I’ve learned a lot about all this by reading The People’s Pharmacy. Thanks for all the useful info!

What about magnesium oil sprays that are topical? How much magnesium do they provide?

We don’t have good information to answer this excellent question.

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