Often it is the simplest of things that are the most powerful. Recently, one such simple thing caught my attention when an acquaintance shared the article, "Did Carrie Fisher Die From Chronic Magnesium Deficiency?" on her Facebook page. As a qualified naturopath, I am very much aware of the importance of minerals such as magnesium for optimal health. I am also aware of the reductions in cardiac mortality linked to optimal magnesium levels. As a Star Wars fan, this really brought home how great of an impact one mineral can heave. Although you may not have millions of fans, you are valuable, you are irreplaceable; that is why I am sharing this information with you.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that magnesium is needed for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It keeps nerve function and heart rhythm steady, keeps bones strong and is needed for energy production. However, some data suggests that half of all Americans, and two-thirds of teenagers and people over 80, do not consume the recommended intake of 300-400mg of magnesium every day! On top of this, salt, fatty foods, alcohol and some pharmaceutical drugs increase magnesium requirements. It is hard to tell if someone is magnesium deficient by a blood test, as the body is amazingly intelligent when it comes to keeping what's most important - the blood - healthy and stable. This keeps us alive and somewhat well, in expectation that our magnesium levels will soon be restored.
What does magnesium do for the heart? Research suggests that a deficiency in the mineral causes dysfunction in the blood vessel walls, increases blood clotting and increases fat deposition in the lesions seen in atherosclerosis. Human population studies have also found that a higher risk of atherosclerosis is related to low magnesium intake. Another strong argument for the use of magnesium as a preventative comes from the Study of Health In Pomerania (SHIP). The rates of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality were analysed in relation to blood levels of magnesium, with an average follow-up of 10 years. In people with magnesium levels of 0.73mmol/L or less, this was 10.95/1,000 person-years for all-cause mortality and 3.44/1,000 for cardiovascular-related deaths. For those with magnesium levels over 0.73mmol/L, mortality rates were 1.45/1,000 and 1.53/1,000 respectively. Perhaps a more well-known population study in the English-speaking world is the Framingham study. Researchers then examined self-reported magnesium intake (food and supplementation) in 2,695 participants, and compared it to coronary artery (CAC) and abdominal aortic calcification (AAC). Artery calcification is a risk factor for cardiovascular events, with these arteries being very important as they serve the heart and much of the body respectively. After adjustment for a multitude of factors, a 50mg/day increase in magnesium intake was linked with a 22% lower risk of CAC and a 12% lower risk of AAC. When comparing volunteers with the highest and lowest magnesium intakes, the risk of any coronary artery calcification was 58% lower, and that of the abdominal aorta was 34% lower. The effect was strongest in women.
Yes, Alexandra, you have just thrown all of these numbers at me, but how can I increase my intake of magnesium? According to World's Healthiest Foods, which uses US government ratings and standards, some of the best sources of magnesium are spinach (watch out for anti-nutrients - blanching is best), swiss chard, beet greens, pumpkin seeds, black beans, sesame seeds, cashews and quinoa. Dr George Lundberg, who wrote the article my acquaintance shared, added dark chocolate, shellfish, whole grains and apricots to this list. I have noticed that when my TM joint is tight, eating good quality dark chocolate does help to relax it. Of course, there is also supplementation, but a consultation with a qualified naturopath is the best way to find which supplement is right for you. It is not selfish to put your health first, you are worth it to so many people!
Alexandra Preston is a degree-qualified naturopath located in Bundall on the Gold Coast. For any questions, including to book an appointment, click here.