Arnold is a fairly healthy guy in his mid-sixties who wound up in a hospital emergency room in the middle of the night, frightened and in pain, wondering if he was having a heart attack. It turned out he was suffering from a type of angina that causes spasms of the heart muscle. After giving him some drugs and monitoring him for a few hours, the doctors sent him home that night, telling him to make an appointment with his physician.
A few weeks later, Arnold’s angina pain was returning, and his physician wanted to put him on a drug called a beta-blocker. Now Arnold takes pretty good care of himself (he does have a weakness for good ice cream), hates going to the physician, and really dislikes taking drugs. Finally he got the name of a physician using alternative health care approaches, who gave him some intravenous magnesium and prescribed a daily magnesium supplement. Not only did Arnold’s angina pain totally disappear after the intravenous magnesium, but his energy level was higher than it had been in years. This was a happy guy!
The essential mineral that’s the biggest key to prevention and treatment of heart disease is magnesium. Several recent studies have shown that if people who come into an emergency room with a heart attack are given intravenous magnesium right away, their chances of survival go way up, and if they continue to receive it, their survival rate continues to improve. It has been shown to help with angina and to improve the symptoms of congestive heart failure (CHF).
Magnesium works on several levels to keep the heart in good working order:
• Prevents muscle spasms. According to several Japanese studies published in the American Journal of Cardiology, the oxygen deficiency and spasms caused by magnesium deficiency narrows the coronary arteries, leading to angina. A great deal of angina pain could be relieved simply by bringing magnesium levels up to normal.
• Keeps blood flowing smoothly. Magnesium helps keep the blood from getting “sticky,” a condition that can contribute to having a stroke.
• Keeps cholesterol under control. Another Japanese study found that patients with low HDL (“good”) cholesterol had low magnesium levels and when they took magnesium supplements their HDL levels increased. In addition, animal studies have shown that when magnesium is deficient, the amount of oxidized LDL cholesterol increases, with a corresponding increase in arterial damage.
• Maintains normal blood pressure. At least 28 independent studies have shown that patients with hypertension (high blood pressure) have a magnesium deficiency. People who have long-term high blood pressure have magnesium levels that average at 15 percent below normal.
• Keeps the heartbeat regular. A magnesium deficiency can lead to irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). If you’re on the medication digitalis to treat heart disease, the medication can be toxic if you are deficient in potassium or magnesium.
It looks like magnesium is involved in just about every aspect of keeping a healthy heart, yet most Americans are deficient in this essential mineral. A large survey done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that only 25 percent of 37,785 individuals had magnesium intakes at or greater than the RDA, which is too low to begin with. Some 20 to 65 percent of critically ill hospitalized patients have a magnesium deficiency. A normal blood serum magnesium test will not give you an accurate indication of your magnesium levels. It’s more accurate (and unfortunately more expensive) to measure intra-cellular magnesium levels.
Early symptoms of a magnesium deficiency can include muscle and nerve pain and an irregular heartbeat. A magnesium deficiency can also create potassium and calcium deficiency. Magnesium can be depleted by stress, excessive alcohol, sugar, diabetes, kidney disease, chronic diarrhea, not enough protein in the diet, too much protein in the diet, and thyroid disorders. Many researchers believe that alcoholics are at a much greater risk for heart disease because in excess, alcohol severely depletes magnesium.
Drugs That Deplete Magnesium
Good food sources of magnesium include whole grains (especially oats, brown rice, millet, buckwheat, and wheat), legumes (lentils, split peas, and beans), bran, almonds and peanuts, and broccoli. Chocolate contains large amounts of magnesium, and a craving for chocolate may be an indicator of a magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium by itself can cause diarrhea, so unless you are constipated, be sure to take it in a multivitamin, in combination with calcium, or in the form of magnesium glycinate, gluconate, or citrate. You can take 300 to 400 mg of magnesium daily as a supplement.
Prescription Alternatives: Hundreds of Free, Natural, Prescription-Free Remedies to Restore & Maintain Your Health, by Earl L. Mindell, R.Ph, Ph. D, & Virginia Hopkins, M.A. Published by McGraw-Hill.