Cardiovascular Benefits of Magnesium: Insights for Atrial Fibrillation Patients

Magnesium and Long Life

Magnesium and Long Life

by Steve S. Ryan, PhD

What if there was a magic pill that would improve by 34% your chances of living a long, healthy life, you’d check it out, right?

Well, it’s not a pill, nor a medication. It’s magnesium—a mineral naturally present in many foods. Magnesium is important for anyone with a high cardiovascular risk (including patients with Atrial Fibrillation).

[pullquote]Magnesium is chronically lacking in most diets. Almost everyone with A-Fib is magnesium deficient.[/pullquote]Magnesium is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies. It’s chronically lacking in most diets. Almost everyone with A-Fib is magnesium deficient. (Also see my article: Mineral Deficiencies—Magnesium.)

reduced riskS of cardiovascular and cancer mortality

New insights come from researchers in Spain who carefully monitored the diets of 7,216 men and women between the ages of 55-80 (an age range more likely to develop A-Fib). The people in the highest third of magnesium intake (442 mg/day) were 34% less likely to have died from any cause over a five-year period. And they had a 59% reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality, plus a 37% reduction in cancer mortality.

In contrast, most US adults ingest only about 270 mg of magnesium a day, well below the modest magnesium RDAs (Recommended Daily Allowance) of 420 mg for adult males and 320 mg for adult female. This creates a substantial cumulative deficiency over months and years.

In the above Spanish study, the highest average intake of magnesium (442 mg) was barely above the minimum RDA level for adult males. But a recommended daily dosage of magnesium is a minimum 600 mg/day, preferably 800 mg.

Marta Guasch-Ferré wrote me that many individuals in her study (289) consumed more than 600 mg of magnesium/day. In this Spanish Mediterranean population, the intake of magnesium was relatively high. They ate a lot of fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Cardiovascular Benefits of magnesium

The authors of this study discussed why the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) was lowered by ingesting more magnesium. “Hypertension is a strong risk factor for CVD, and it is known that magnesium can lower blood pressure. Also, magnesium intake may inhibit platelet aggregation, modulate inflammation, and improve endothelial function.”[pullquote]A Harvard study indicated that higher intakes of magnesium were linked with a 22% reduction in the risk of ischemic heart disease.[/pullquote]

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) lists the benefits of magnesium as keeping heart rhythm steady (like antiarrhythmic A-Fib meds), maintaining normal muscle and nerve function, supporting a healthy immune system, and keeping bones strong. It’s also needed for healthy blood pressure and blood sugar management.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has stated that magnesium is important in the maintenance of normal bone, teeth, and protein synthesis; the reduction of tiredness and fatigue; electrolyte balance; normal energy-yielding metabolism; neurotransmission, and muscle contraction. Other studies support magnesium’s benefits for metabolic pathways, blood pressure, reducing the risk of stroke, and reducing the risk of colon cancer.

A Harvard study indicated that higher intakes of magnesium were linked with a 22% reduction in the risk of ischemic heart disease (IHD—clots, stroke).

Food Insufficient Source of magnesium

Almost anyone reading this article should probably be taking more magnesium. Ideally you should get the magnesium you need from the food you eat. But the reality is magnesium has been depleted from our soil by over farming. You probably need some form of oral magnesium supplement.

Aim for more than the bare minimum RDA (420 mg for men, 370 mg for women). A recommended dosage is 600 mg-800 mg/day. (For example, 200 mg three times a day and 200 mg at bedtime.) But start off with very low dosages. Excess magnesium or magnesium sensitivity can cause loose stools and diarrhea which is counterproductive, because of the loss of electrolytes.

Six Months to Replenish magnesium levels

It may take as long as six months to replenish your intracellular magnesium levels. (Check with your doctor. But because magnesium is a natural substance and not a medication, some US doctors won’t consider magnesium as a viable therapy.)[pullquote]US consumers are waking up to the benefits of magnesium. US sales of magnesium supplements grew by 15% from 2010 to 2011.[/pullquote]

Your doctor should be able to test you for intracellular magnesium. (Blood serum tests are misleading. They remain relatively stable [at about 1%], even though working intracellular magnesium levels may be low.) To learn more about the distinction between serum and intracellular magnesium levels, see the article, Low Serum Magnesium Linked with Atrial Fibrillation.

A faster way to improve your magnesium levels is with a magnesium IV. Magnesium IVs are used in Europe in the ER to restore normal heart rhythm in patients with A-Fib, but not generally in the US. Dr. Julian Whitaker in Newport Beach, CA performs this therapy (

Continue Magnesium Supplements?

Even if you don’t have A-Fib or you have been made A-Fib free by a catheter ablation, you should still probably consider increasing the amount of magnesium you are taking, through food and/or supplements.

[su_spoiler title=”References for this article”]Guasch-Ferre, MM et al. Dietary magnesium intake is inversely associated with mortality in adults at high cardiovascular risk. J Nutr. 2014 January;144(1):55-60.

Daniells, S. Magnesium may help people with heart problems to live longer. NUTRA Dec. 2, 2013.

Daniells, S. More magnesium may slash heart disease risk by 30%: Harvard meta-analysis. NUTRA May 30, 2013.

First published August 2014[/su_spoiler]

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