Magnesium: An Unsung Hero

Filed Under: Heart Health, Food and Nutrition, Nutrients and Additives
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Magnesium is a cardinal mineral for the heart; that is, it’s essential to healthy heart function. Yet low magnesium is one of the most underdiagnosed electrolyte abnormalities in clinical practice today.

Magnesium is often depleted in patients with cardiovascular problems, specifically those with congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy), and heart attack.

Like CoQ10, magnesium is crucial to produce the high-energy bonds that drive the energy machinery of your cells. Inside cells, magnesium is most abundant in the mitochondria. All enzymatic reactions involving ATP require magnesium. Your cells need a steady supply of magnesium to maintain proper smooth muscle function in your blood vessels.

Here are situations that warrant using magnesium:

  • If you have suffered a heart attack or are at risk for heart attack;
  • If you are prone to ventricular arrhythmia;
  • If you have had or are planning to have open-heart surgeryor a heart transplant;
  • If you have congestive heart failure or cardiomyopathy;
  • If you have high blood pressure levels;
  • If you are taking diuretics long-term.

There is a great deal of evidence that magnesium, when administered according to specific protocols in appropriate dosages, can reduce mortality in patients who have suffered a heart attack. In one study, when magnesium was added to the diets of heart attack patients, their survival improved by more than 800 percent. Additionally, magnesium can prevent or reduce the severity of life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias that often occur after heart surgery.

Perhaps the best indication for magnesium is in its ability to keep blood pressure levels healthy.  There is a direct relationship between low magnesium and high blood pressure levels. Over time, low magnesium levels may predispose the interior of your vessels to contract (go into spasm); eventually, high blood pressure can result. Magnesium can come to the rescue of contracted blood vessels and even reverse some of the damage.

Good cardiovascular nutrition includes food rich in magnesium like whole grains, seafood, leafy green vegetables, soy products, brown rice, bananas, apricots, and seeds and nuts. The foods highest in magnesium include kelp, tofu, figs, and pumpkin seeds. In addition to adding these foods to your diet, I recommend that you take a magnesium supplement if you have any cardiovascular problems.

For most conditions, I recommend taking 400–800 mg of magnesium daily. Although magnesium oxide is a common form used in many supplements, I have found it is not easily soluble or well absorbed by the body. I recommend malate, citrate, glycinate, or glucorate forms of magnesium, or a broad-spectrum product that contains a variety of these forms.

For more information on supplements for cardiovascular problems, visit

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