Why This Nutrient is the Unsung Hero of Heart Health
By some estimates, nearly one-third of the adult population in the US has high blood pressure (or hypertension). High blood pressure is called “the silent killer” because it often presents no symptoms, but at the same time greatly increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney problems and death.
Most people with high blood pressure take prescription medications to lower it. Some of these medications include diuretics, angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), beta blockers and alpha blockers. While generally effective, these medications have numerous side effects, such as erectile dysfunction, fatigue, leg cramps, insomnia, headache, dizziness and heartburn, to name just a few.
These unpleasant side effects have prompted many patients to look for more natural ways to reduce blood pressure. Fortunately, mild to moderate high blood pressure can often be decreased naturally by following a healthy diet (like the Mediterranean diet), exercising regularly, and taking specialized heart-friendly nutrients like CoQ10 and magnesium.
Magnesium, in particular, seems to be an unsung hero when it comes to heart health and lowering blood pressure naturally.
One recent meta-analysis examined 23 studies (1,173 individuals) that observed magnesium’s effects on systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure.
The mean duration of treatment was 11.3 weeks, and the mean daily dosage was 410 mg. Researchers found that the average reduction for systolic blood pressure was 3–4 mmHg and 2–3 mmHg for diastolic.
This may not seem like a huge reduction, but researchers noted, “The Antihypertensive and Lipid-Lowering Treatment to Prevent Heart Attack Trial (ALLHAT) found, when comparing antihypertensive treatments, that a [systolic blood pressure] reduction of between 0.8 and 2 mmHg, depending on drug intervention, was clinically significant in reducing the incidence of coronary heart disease, heart failure, and stroke.”
Are You Magnesium Deficient?
So, research shows people with high blood pressure could greatly benefit from magnesium supplementation, and many people are deficient in this mineral without even knowing it.
Many factors can deplete magnesium levels in the body:
1. Chronic stress causes your body to have increased levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. If your bloodstream is flooded with these hormones, it causes magnesium to be released from your cells and removed from the body via urine.
2. Diuretics — ironically, a common blood pressure medication — can cause magnesium depletion in the body.
3. Poor diet is also a culprit. In the early 1900s, people were regularly consuming 500 mg of magnesium through their diets. Now, that value is closer to 175 mg a day, which is not enough.
4. Taking too much calcium can cause your kidneys to excrete magnesium. Ideally, calcium and magnesium should be taken in a 2:1 ratio. For instance, if you take 1,000 mg of calcium, you should take 500 mg of magnesium.
Boost Magnesium for Heart Health
You can boost your levels of magnesium — and decrease your blood pressure naturally — by reducing stress, consuming foods rich in magnesium, and by taking a magnesium supplement.
Foods rich in magnesium include whole grains, seafood, leafy green vegetables, tofu, kelp, brown rice, figs, bananas, apricots, seeds and nuts.
If supplementing with magnesium, take up to 500 mg a day. Remember, as mentioned earlier, you should take twice as much calcium as magnesium.
 Kass L, Weekes J, Carpenter L. Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012 Apr;66(4):411–418.
Larissa Long has worked in the health care communications field for more than 13 years. She co-authored a self-care book titled Taking Care, has written countless tip sheets and e-letters on health topics, and contributed several articles to Natural Solutions magazine. She also served as managing editor of three alternative health and lifestyle newsletters — Dr. Susan Lark’s Women’s Wellness Today, Dr. David Williams’ Alternatives, and Janet Luhrs’ Simple Living.
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Article updated on: April 4th, 2014