(NaturalHealth365) The majority of Americans have magnesium levels far below optimal – to the point that many natural health experts are classifying magnesium deficiency in the United States as an “epidemic.” And, while shortages of this essential mineral can damage health, the reverse – having ample levels of magnesium – pays major life-extending dividends.
For example, higher levels of magnesium intake are associated with dramatically reduced rates of high blood pressure and heart disease – as well as fewer strokes, lower rates of kidney disease, better blood sugar control, healthier bones and teeth, and less risk of cognitive decline – all factors that can prevent degenerative diseases and prolong the quality of your life.
Magnesium is simply amazing within the human body
This essential mineral is necessary for 300 different enzymes to function effectively, and helps to
regulate the flow of mineral ions in and out of cells in the skeleton, heart muscle, brain and nerve cells.
Simply put, there is no system in the body to which magnesium is not vital. Among many other functions, it converts food to energy, helps to control blood sugar, plays a large role in the health of blood vessels, and helps regulate heart and brain function.
‘Modern living’ has left us strapped for magnesium
Once upon a time, most people drank spring water – which supplied an abundance of naturally-occurring magnesium – both in the environment and in our bodies. But, these days, the vast majority of the Western world is drinking bottled water and/or city water that leaves us disconnected from this natural, healthy way of getting enough magnesium.
To make matters worse, many modern pharmaceutical drugs rob the body’s stores of magnesium – particularly the proton-pump inhibitors used to alleviate heartburn. Other factors that can reduce magnesium levels are having irritable bowel syndrome, taking diuretics, perspiring heavily, and consuming excessive amounts of coffee, sofa and alcohol. Finally, magnesium levels drop with age.
Low magnesium levels threaten the health of older adults
People over the age of 70 are particularly at risk for low magnesium, with 8 out of 10 men and 7 out of 10 women failing to consume enough magnesium in their daily diets. As recommended by The Linus Pauling Institute, the RDA for magnesium is 400 to 420 mg a day for men and 310 to 320 mg a day for women.
This endemic lack of magnesium is reflected by grim statistics – the fact is, people 65 and older who have low blood levels of magnesium also have higher death rates. And, in a study of hospitalized, critically ill patients, 55 percent with low magnesium levels on admission ultimately died, while mortality rate for those with normal levels was 35 percent.
The good news: it is never too late to improve your health – and your odds of a longer life – by increasing your magnesium intake.
Magnesium prevents arrhythmias, improves cardiovascular health and lowers stroke risk
Magnesium helps to prevent arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeat, while protecting blood vessels against accumulations of calcium, thereby lowering the risk of atherosclerosis – a clear predictor of heart disease, stroke and premature death. Adding to its heart-healthy attributes is the ability of magnesium to significantly lower blood pressure.
Just as healthy levels of magnesium can protect the heart, deficiencies can harm it.
In a 2015 study published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, participants with lower serum levels of magnesium were more than twice as likely to have coronary arterial calcification. Low magnesium levels also cause a 50 percent greater risk of atrial fibrillation – a type of irregular heartbeat that can lead to a stroke.
A natural way to avoid harm from diabetes
Aging tends to increase the risk of insulin resistance, which can result in higher blood sugar levels. As even borderline high blood sugar causes damage to proteins throughout the body, regulating blood sugar is essential to preventing age-related diseases.
Magnesium supplementation does this by improving the body’s reaction to insulin. A recent review of 21 clinical trials published in Pharmacological Research showed that magnesium supplementation caused significant improvements in insulin resistance, in some cases lowering blood sugar an average of 13 mg/dL when compared to placebo. Both diabetic and non-diabetic participants benefitted from supplementation, demonstrating magnesium’s potential to prevent, as well as treat, diabetes.
Magnesium supports the health of our bones and teeth
Magnesium is an important structural constituent of bones, and half of the body’s stores of magnesium reside there. Not surprisingly, low levels of magnesium can lead to osteoporosis, with low magnesium levels also promoting inflammatory cytokines that break down bones – another reason it is wise for older people to supplement with magnesium.
Magnesium supplements also support tooth attachment and help subjects to retain teeth.
Magnesium is a great way to target inflammatory chemicals
Magnesium’s ability to shut down cytokines and other pro-inflammatory signaling molecules makes it an invaluable ally against the chronic inflammation that contributes to degenerative diseases. Poor magnesium status is linked with a wide array of chronic conditions, including diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease – to name just a few.
So, what are the best ways to add magnesium into the diet?
Magnesium-rich foods include whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and fruits. Tofu, wheat bran, and tree nuts such as cashews, almonds and walnuts can also increase magnesium stores – and don’t forget the often-overlooked pumpkin and squash seeds. A surprising amount of tasty cooking spices are rich in magnesium as well, including dill, celery seed, basil, coriander, sage, tarragon and marjoram.
If you opt to take supplemental magnesium, experts recommend using a two-part formulation composed of magnesium citrate in a quick-release form and magnesium oxide in an extended-release form. This truly gives you the “best of both worlds” in achieving consistent levels.
Since calcium “competes” with magnesium for absorption, magnesium supplementation can cause calcium deficiency if levels are already low. As always, discuss supplementation with a trusted medical professional – who can help create a plan that’s right for you.