Three Critical Reasons Why Magnesium
is Essential for Heart Health
By Dr. Kevin Passero
Did you know that studies estimate up to 45% of all Americans are deficient in magnesium! This is a major concern because every cell in the body requires magnesium to function.
It is estimated that at least 300 essential biochemical pathways in the body need magnesium as a cofactor. While Magnesium has benefits across almost all systems of the body including skeletal health, muscle health, and nervous system/brain health it plays a critical role in heart health.
Here are three reasons why you must have adequate magnesium levels for optimal heart health.
1: Magnesium Helps your Heart Beat
The highest concentrations of magnesium in the body are found in the heart and skeletal muscle, and magnesium plays a key role in regulating cardiac conduction. The entire system of the heart is electrical, which is why doctors can put the electrical leads of an EKG machine on the chest to evaluate the contraction of the heart, and it is also why strong electrical shocks from a defibrillator can revive a stopped heart. The contraction of the heart muscle is dependent on specialized ion channels that require the activity of sodium and potassium pumps to create the necessary electrical gradients. These pumps are dependent on magnesium to function and imbalances of magnesium can contribute to irregular heartbeats called arrythmias.
The heart is the hardest working muscle in the body. Every day it circulates roughly 2,000 gallons of blood around the body, and beats anywhere from 70,000-100,00 times!! All this activity requires a tremendous amount of energy, fueled primarily by something called ATP (adenotriphosphate). ATP is the energy currency of our cells, and our heart uses a tremendous amount of it every day. Magnesium is an essential cofactor needed for the energy producing mitochondria in your cells to make ATP. Without magnesium, your body cannot make energy, and all reactions in the body that use ATP as an energy source, like your heart, need magnesium.
2: Arteries Require Magnesium to be Healthy
Arteries are responsible for bringing the oxygen and nutrient rich blood pumped from the heart to the trillions of cells in our body. They are very dynamic in nature and are lined with a thick layer of smooth muscle. This allows them to regulate blood flow and blood pressure through expansion and contraction. Low magnesium levels are correlated to higher blood pressure and increasing magnesium intake through diet or supplements has been shown to support healthy blood pressure levels.
The endothelium is a single layer of cells that lines our arteries and is responsible for controlling the relaxation and constriction of the smooth muscle in the artery walls. This single layer thick lining of cells is also the site of constant stress and damage from toxins, high blood sugar, pathogens, oxidative stress, high blood pressure and high levels of circulating cholesterol. Endothelial damage and stress are the initial trigger for a cascade of events that ultimately leads to plaque formation and cardiovascular disease progression. The health of the arteries and of the endothelial lining of the arteries must be maintained to prevent heart disease.
Magnesium plays a critical role in the activity of the endothelium. It helps to increase the production of nitric oxide, the key compound that relaxes the smooth muscle and allows arteries to relax, resulting in increased blood flow and lower pressures. It does this by upregulating the activity of an important endothelium enzyme called nitric oxide synthase, which is the endothelium enzyme that produces nitric oxide.** The magnesium stimulated production of nitric oxide, and subsequent relaxation of arteries, has been shown to help improve blood flow through our cardiovascular. *
In addition, low magnesium levels increase the production of certain chemicals in the body that activate platelets. Platelets play an active role in clot formation, and overactivation is a significant factor in reducing overall cardiovascular health. Higher blood levels of magnesium have been shown to reduce key reactions related to platelet activation and the inappropriate blood clotting that can diminish heart health.*****
3: Magnesium Regulates Cholesterol and Reduces Plaque Formation
Impressive research has shown magnesium’s ability to prevent the formation of plaque in the arteries and improve overall cardiovascular health. It can help reduce vascular calcification (hardening of the arteries) by inhibiting the deposition of calcium within the artery wall.*
The well-known Rotterdam population study involving over 15,000 participants over the span of 30 years showed that lower serum magnesium concentrations were associated with increased carotid intima-media thickness, a key marker that predicts heart disease risk.
High cholesterol and high triglycerides are recognized contributors to atherosclerosis, and magnesium supplementation has been shown to reduce LDL levels, increase HDL levels and lower triglycerides.* The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study showed that low serum magnesium and low dietary intake of magnesium was associated with lower cardiovascular disease health. Another large scale population study showed that people with the lowest serum magnesium levels had the greatest risk of dying from diseases related to the heart. *
The Best Sources of Magnesium
For all these reasons, it is important to make sure you get enough magnesium every day. I firmly believe in a food-first approach because all vitamins, minerals and nutrients are better absorbed by the body when delivered in their natural state, still within the food matrix.
Magnesium is abundant in vegetables, particularly dark leafy greens. In my practice we encourage people to eat at least one large serving of dark leafy greens every day. Collard greens, spinach, arugula, and kale are all great options, and because minerals do not easily break down with heat, you are free to eat these items cooked or raw depending on your palate. Nuts and seeds are also excellent sources of magnesium as are beans and whole grains.
And guess what? Dark chocolate is an excellent source of magnesium which can make getting your daily dose of magnesium very tasty!! These whole-food plant-based foods should be part of your daily regimen to ensure you are getting plenty of magnesium from your diet.
The Sad Truth: Magnesium Depletion in a Modern World
Sadly, our food supply has significantly declined in magnesium concentration, which is why almost one-half of all Americans are not getting enough.
The problem is two-fold.
For starters, the rise in popularity of processed food has stripped this essential mineral from a huge portion of the food supply. About 80% of any magnesium contained in a food is lost during food processing. So, try to eat things that look the same as they did when they came out of the Earth. The more processed it is, the less magnesium it will have.
Secondly, due to modern industrial farming techniques our soil has become significantly depleted in magnesium over the past fifty years and as such, magnesium content in fruits and vegetables has significantly declined. Factory farmed crops are fertilized with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, but not magnesium. As the fertilizers stimulate the artificial growth of massive crops, the magnesium gets depleted from the soil, without ever being replenished.
Our magnesium depleted soil is why we now have magnesium depleted crops. Organic foods have been shown in multiple studies to provide significantly more magnesium compared to non-organic foods which is great, but it is still less than what was produced by our soils just 50 years ago.
Why Magnesium Supplements Are Important
While we all wish we could do everything with food first, the reality is that we live in a modern society with a growing global population that has put significant stress on the natural resources of the Earth, including the soil.
This is why I often recommend my patients take a magnesium supplement to optimize cardiovascular health and support the vast network of systems in the body that require this essential nutrient. However, before you run out and grab any magnesium supplement on the shelf, take a minute to get acquainted with how magnesium supplements work so you can make the best choice for your body.
Read This Before You Buy a Magnesium Supplement
Magnesium by itself as a free mineral is not well absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract because it is not very soluble. And in fact, magnesium does not exist in supplemental form by itself. The closest you can get to plain magnesium is magnesium oxide, which is magnesium reacted with oxygen. Being reacted to oxygen does not do much to make magnesium oxide very absorbable which is why it is one of the best magnesium supplements to take if you suffer from constipation. Because magnesium oxide is not well absorbed, it sits in the gastrointestinal tract and facilitates the influx of water as the body tries to balance the mineral gradient within the bowel. This increased water expands the large intestine and triggers muscle contractions which help push things along, therefore relieving many types of constipation. However, if you want to take a form of magnesium that helps your heart and not your bowel movements, you should look to other forms.
The Best Type of Supplemental Magnesium
In my clinic, I prescribe magnesium glycinate for people who want to increase cellular levels of magnesium to support their heart and cardiovascular health.
This is a form of magnesium that has been attached to an amino acid called glycine. This unique combination of magnesium + glycine makes magnesium far more soluble, allowing it to be easily absorbed across the intestines and into the blood stream, where it can be delivered to the cells in our heart and vascular system. And because it is so well absorbed into the blood stream, it is very easy on the gastrointestinal system and rarely causes loose stool which can be a side effect of many different magnesium supplements.
When I formulated Durable MAGNESIUM™, I made sure to use only the highly absorbable magnesium glycinate compound to ensure maximum benefits. It’s gentler on the gastrointestinal system than other popular forms of magnesium, like magnesium citrate, due to its increased solubility and absorbability. An added benefit of magnesium glycinate is that when it enters the blood stream, the body splits the magnesium and glycine back into their individual forms.
While the magnesium is busy doing its job, the glycine acts as a weak calming neurotransmitter to the brain and nervous system creating a calming effect that helps to relieve stress, improve sleep quality, and relax tense muscles. This unique dual-action activity multiplies the benefits of a magnesium glycinate supplement giving you important benefits across multiple systems of the body.
Hopefully you have learned a lot about why magnesium is so beneficial for the heart and why it is so important to consider taking a magnesium supplement to ensure you are meeting your optimal daily requirements.
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