Magnesium: dear to our hearts
Quick quiz: What is the first treatment given to heart attack victims in the emergency rooms of many top, cutting-edge American hospitals? If you think it is some fancy drug with an unpronounceable name, think again. The first line of defense in such cases is a basic element of nature that every school-age child learns about in Chemistry class: Magnesium.
Magnesium touches almost every aspect of our health and is the most important mineral for the heart. Three hundred different enzymes in the body depend on it for their production. It also produces and transports energy, helps transmit nerve signals, relaxes muscles, and is necessary for the synthesis of protein. Magnesium deficiency is associated with 22 different health conditions including heart disease, type II diabetes, blood clots, nerve problems, mood disorders, migraines, liver and kidney disease. Yet, most people fail to consume magnesium as much as needed. Furthermore, very few cardiologists prescribe it routinely. Is it then a wonder that heart conditions are so rampant? An organization called the International Society for the Development of Research on Magnesium (SDRM) is dedicated to research the role of this mineral in all branches of life science and medicine. The SDRM’s goal is to increase awareness, collaboration and exchange of information, and puts forth a science journal called “Magnesium Research”.
The three most important things that one needs to know about Magnesium and heart disease are:
1) It prevents muscles spasms of the heart blood vessels, which can lead to heart attack (myocardial infarction). Heart attacks cause permanent damage to the heart muscle. Intravenous magnesium given as soon as possible after a heart attack may provide the best protection in that situation. Also, the mineral’s ability to neutralize the heart-damaging effects of catecholamines (by-products of stress-induced adrenaline and cortisol) can prevent many side effects of heart attack such as arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm). It is the primary treatment for ventricular arrhythmia and congestive heart failure (a weak heart that is unable to empty blood after each heartbeat). Magnesium deficiency is implicated in heart rhythm disturbance called atrial fibrillation and in mitral valve prolapse: a disorder in which this valve fails to close off one of the heart chambers during contraction. Modern medicine has no treatment for mitral valve prolapse. Angina, a heart condition characterized by chest pains due to insufficient blood flow to the heart muscle, strikes less frequently with magnesium supplementation. Finally, with this mineral the body keeps a better balance of potassium – another mineral that is vital to the heart.
2) It prevents calcium build-up in cholesterol plaque in the arteries, which can lead to clogged arteries (atherosclerosis). Magnesium supplementation prevents artery-blocking clots by not allowing platelets to clump together in the blood. Good cholesterol (HDL) goes up and bad cholesterol (LDL) goes down thanks to this amazing mineral.
3) It prevents muscle spasms of peripheral blood vessels, which can lead to high blood pressure. Obstetricians are familiar with the use of magnesium for hypertension in women during childbirth; unfortunately cardiologists or even family doctors are unaware about the importance of this mineral in treating hypertension. With magnesium therapy, blood vessels that are constricted become relaxed, thus causing blood to flow more freely and helping to lower high blood pressure.
Almost all people who suffer from some heart ailment would benefit from this mineral tremendously. A dose of 400-1000mg divided into 2-3 parts daily helps anybody who wants to improve heart health. Several kinds of oral magnesium supplements are available. These are salts of magnesium conjugated with compounds such as oxide, orotate, and taurate. Magnesium sulphate found in magnesium oil is best for absorption through the skin (transdermal replenishment).
If this mineral is so important why hasn’t everyone heard about it? And what about doctors, whose first duty is to help patients? Dr. Carolyn Dean, an expert on magnesium health from the United States says that “doctors generally do not learn about nutrition or nutrient supplementation in medical school because they are studying the disease, not wellness”. To make things worse, pharmaceutical companies are only interested in patentable drugs and not natural therapies that provide little profit.
Without proper supplementation, magnesium deficiency is unavoidable. Crops are grown in soil that has become deficient in magnesium due to utilization of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The body expends most of its meager supplies of magnesium to cleanse itself of pollutants and other toxins. Perspiration and stress drain magnesium from the body. Use of drugs such as diuretics, birth control pills, insulin, corticosteroids, nicotine, antibiotics depletes magnesium even further. Processed junk food forms about 35% of the average person’s diet today, and is completely deficient of magnesium. Finally as we get older we absorb less nutrients including magnesium from food. A diet consisting of raw unheated nuts, seeds and seed butters along with green leafy vegetables, whole grains such as buckwheat, millet, rye, oats, amaranth and quinoa are some of the sources of magnesium. A high quality mineral rich sea salt also helps.
A word of caution: excessive levels of magnesium can be harmful especially if certain kidney problems prevent the mineral from being excreted. High levels of oral magnesium supplementation can result in diarrhea and interference with calcium absorption. Individuals with kidney disease must take magnesium supplements under medical supervision. Some important drugs that have interactions with magnesium are diuretics, tetracycline antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs. Blood tests are the best way to determine the need for magnesium.