Is low magnesium making your heart ache?

Magnesium is an essential mineral needed in hundreds of chemical reactions in your body. It regulates muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and the production of protein, bone, and DNA. It also helps antioxidants do their job.

Magnesium is useful in promoting healthy sleep, reducing osteoporosis, and alleviating migraines, muscle spasms, fibromyalgia, stress and depression.

The heart can benefit from magnesium’s ability to lower blood pressure, stabilize some arrhythmias, help improve heart function in patients with heart failure, and serve as an anti-inflammatory agent for arteries.

If your magnesium is low, you can have symptoms like insomnia, headaches, anxiety, high blood pressure, palpitations, muscle pain and hormonal imbalances.

How do we get magnesium in our foods?

Unfortunately, about 70 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium. Blood tests may not be an accurate way of detecting total body magnesium.

Traditional farming and processing of foods can deplete magnesium from foods. Organic methods are better but not perfect. Fortunately, there are some good dietary sources of magnesium.

Seeds, leafy greens, spinach, pumpkin, nuts and dark chocolate are just few examples of foods that are rich in magnesium. You may need to eat a certain amount of servings to get the amount you need, and there are websites that will let you know how many milligrams per serving size you might be getting.

As adults, we need at least 400mg per day and, under stressful conditions, sometimes more.

What about supplements?

Because an adequate amount of magnesium is difficult to get from foods, a supplement can be beneficial. After consulting with your doctor, you can start with 200 to 400mg of a good form of magnesium, preferably chelated magnesium which is easier to absorb.

Some other forms of the mineral that are easier to absorb are magnesium taurate (a combination of two substances that are good for your heart), magnesium glycinate or magnesium malate. A newer compound on the market is magnesium L-threonate, which is the only type of magnesium that can cross the blood-brain barrier, reaching the brain and possibly helping with Alzheimer’s disease. If possible, try to avoid magnesium oxide or sulfate as these are not well absorbed by the body and can cause gastrointestinal upset.

I like to tell my patients that optimal health is a combination of exercise, good diet, and good mental health. Sometimes supplementing with vitamins and minerals – after consulting with your doctor – can help you achieve optimal health, motivate you to stick to healthy eating and get more benefit out of your daily exercise. All of these benefits will contribute to keeping your heart strong and protecting your overall health.

Mona Shah, MD, is a cardiologist with Baptist Heart Specialists and the only physician in northeast Florida who is board certified in both cardiology and holistic medicine (American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine, or ABIHM). Her areas of expertise include heart disease prevention, women’s heart health and non-invasive cardiac testing.

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