Magnesium heart disease

High magnesium intake seems to protect against several types of cardiovascu- lar disease, including atherosclerosis, heart attack, angina, ischemic heart disease and cardiac arrhythmias. Magnesium deficiency may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in several ways. Chronic magnesium deficiency in animals has been shown to result in microscopic changes in the heart arteries and the development of atherosclerosis. Deficiency also leads to changes in the heart muscle itself, including cell degeneration, fibrosis, necrosis and calcification. Blood fat levels are also affected by magnesium dietary intake. Cholesterol may be more susceptible to oxidative damage when magnesium levels are low.

Magnesium heart diseaseStudies show that death rates from coronary heart disease are higher in areas where the water is low in magnesium. In a 1996 study, Swedish researchers investigated these links in 17 municipalities in the southern part of the country which had differing water magnesium concentrations. The study included 854 men who had died of heart attacks between the ages of 50 and 69, and 989 men of the same age in the same area who had died from cancer during the same time period. The results showed that men living in high magnesium water areas had a 35 per cent lower chance of death from heart attack than those who drank low magnesium water.

Results from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study support the association between low serum and dietary magnesium and various types of cardiovascular disease including high blood pressure. A total of 15 248 people took part, male and female, black and white, aged 45 to 64 years. The results showed that serum magnesium levels were significantly lower in participants with cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes than in those free of these diseases. Low dietary intake was linked to lower beneficial HDL cholesterol levels and thicker carotid artery walls, both of which increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

See also Minerals and cardiovascular disease

Magnesium deficiency is also linked to variant angina, a disorder in which coronary heart vessels go into spasm. A 1996 Japanese study found that men with lower magnesium levels had more frequent and severe angina attacks. Magnesium-deficient heart muscle is more vulnerable to lack of oxygen.

Magnesium deficiency also contributes to cardiac arrhythmias, possibly because magnesium is responsible for maintaining potassium concentrations inside muscle cells. Potassium plays a role in heart muscle contraction. Magnesium deficiency has been implicated in mitral valve prolapse, a disorder in which the mitral valve in the heart fails to properly close off the heart chambers from each other during contraction. As many as 85 per cent of sufferers may have chronic magnesium deficiency.

Magnesium supplements in heart disease

Low magnesium levels have been found in the blood and cardiac muscle of heart attack victims, and several small studies have shown that magnesium sulfate injections can reduce death rates in heart attack patients, both in the short term and for longer periods. It may act by improving energy production, inhibiting platelet aggregation, reducing vascular resistance, promoting clot breakdown, dilating blood vessels and improving the function of heart muscle. It also protects the damaged heart muscle against calcium overload and reduces free radical damage.

However, two recently published studies showed different results, although similar doses of magnesium were used. The LIMIT-2-study was a double- blind, placebo-controlled investigation of over 2300 patients with suspected heart attack. Magnesium infusion reduced 28-day death risk by 24 per cent. The ISIS-4-study on over 50,000 patients with suspected heart attack did not show any positive effect of magnesium on death rate.

Magnesium supplements are often used to treat angina, both that caused by atherosclerosis and variant angina caused by coronary artery spasm. In a 1997 study UK researchers assessed the effects of a 24-hour infusion of magnesium in patients with unstable angina. Thirty-one patients received magnesium sulfate and 31 placebo. After treatment, there were fewer ischemic episodes in the magnesium group and duration of ischemia in the placebo group was longer than that in the magnesium group.

Magnesium supplements have also been used to treat cardiomyopathy, a weakening of heart muscle which leads to reduced efficiency of blood circulation and congestive heart failure. Sufferers of intermittent claudication, a painful condition caused by reduced blood flow to the legs, often have low magnesium levels and may be helped by supplements. Magnesium supplements have been successfully used to treat mitral valve prolapse. Magnesium supplements have been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

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Magnesium heart disease
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