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If you search for advice on how to reduce your risk of heart disease you will most likely find information about saturated fats and cholesterol.
But there is another often-overlooked nutritional cause of sudden cardiac death: magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium Reduces the Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death
Research examining the association between magnesium and sudden cardiac death has demonstrated that the risk is significantly lower in women with the highest blood levels of magnesium.
The occurrence of sudden cardiac death was 41 percent lower in women with the highest magnesium levels.
Sudden cardiac death happens without warning, taking a person’s life just minutes after symptoms first appear. It occurs in people without any prior indications of heart disease. There are more than 300,000 deaths every year in the USA from sudden cardiac death.
One of the most important ways you can considerably reduce your risk is to ensure you have an adequate intake of magnesium.
The Importance of Magnesium for Health
According to Dr. Mildred Seelig, author of The Magnesium Factor, 80 to 90 percent of the population is deficient in magnesium. It is probably the most under-recognized electrolyte disorder.
Most athletes are aware of the importance of replenishing sodium and potassium after sweating. However, very few know about the potential dangers of a magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium is involved in more than 300 metabolic reactions in the body, many of which involve energy production. It appears to play an important role in optimizing the use of oxygen to burn calories. So a deficiency of magnesium may interfere with weight loss.
How Magnesium Improves Heart Function
Unfortunately, it is rare for doctors to check the magnesium levels of their cardiac patients. In addition, some of the medications prescribed for heart disease – including diuretics – can actually induce a magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium helps to stabilize the normal function of the nerves of the heart to prevent abnormal heart rhythms, which are the underlying cause of sudden cardiac death.
The amount of magnesium in the body also determines the levels of a particular enzyme that regulates potassium. So if you are magnesium-deficient, you may, in turn, be potassium-deficient. Regardless of whether you are getting enough potassium in your diet, you can still be deficient if you are not getting enough magnesium.
Do You Have a Magnesium Deficiency?
The most common symptoms of inadequate magnesium include:
- Muscle spasms
- Anxiety and panic disorder
- Restless leg syndrome
- Heart palpitations
- Eye twitches
- Back and neck pain
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of magnesium for adults is around 420 mg/day for men and 320 mg/day for women.
How to Test for Magnesium Deficiency
The most common test for magnesium is called “Serum Magnesium” however this only measures approximately 1% of the magnesium in your body.
A more accurate way to evaluate your magnesium status is the RBC Erythrocyte Mineral Test. This test evaluates the levels of magnesium in your red blood cells.
It also measures the amounts of other minerals including selenium, vanadium, zinc, and heavy metals such as aluminum, lead, and mercury.
What are the Best Sources of Magnesium?
Ideally, you will get the best results by ensuring you have an adequate intake of magnesium from a balanced whole-foods diet.
Supplementation with isolated minerals can often throw off the body’s balance due to the close interrelationship between different nutrients and is generally not recommended.
Leafy green vegetables are one of the best sources. Their green color is due to chlorophyll, which is a molecule that contains magnesium.
Examples of green vegetables with a high amount of magnesium include spinach, Swiss chard, Collard greens, mustard greens, kale and broccoli.
Green juices and green smoothies are an easy way to consume large amounts of greens.
Other good sources of magnesium include:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Black beans
- Green peas
- Brown rice
Organic foods may have more magnesium, as most fertilizers used on conventional farms do not replenish magnesium.
Avoid refined foods, especially sugar and white flour, as magnesium is stripped from them during processing. Too much coffee, soda, salt, or alcohol can also lower magnesium levels.
Raw Food Recipes for a Healthy Heart
The following recipes contain foods that are good sources of magnesium:
Preventing Heart Disease
There are many elements involved in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system and a holistic approach requires addressing a range of diet and lifestyle factors.
However, maintaining an adequate intake of magnesium is one important step you can take to significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.