The results showed that the relative risk of sudden cardiac death was significantly lower in women in the highest quartile of dietary magnesium consumption. In fact, women with the highest blood levels of magnesium had a 41 percent lower risk of sudden cardiac death.
According to the study, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition:
"In this prospective cohort of women, higher plasma concentrations and dietary magnesium intakes were associated with lower risks of SCD. If the observed association is causal, interventions directed at increasing dietary or plasma magnesium might lower the risk of SCD."
As its name implies, sudden cardiac death (SCD) occurs without warning, taking a person's life just minutes after symptoms first appear. Often underlying coronary heart disease is present, but many people who die from sudden cardiac death do not know they have heart disease.
In fact, the most common "symptom" of heart disease is actually sudden death.
Prior to there are absolutely no indications of a problem, no signs like ongoing chest pain or shortness of breath. There are no symptoms at all until just minutes before the event occurs and ultimately kills you. In the United States, there are more than 300,000 deaths every year from sudden cardiac death, but there are several ways you can help to slash your risk considerably -- and one of these may be by consuming plenty of magnesium.
Magnesium Slashes Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death
In the latest study, women who consumed the most magnesium in their diets slashed their risk of sudden cardiac death by 37 percent compared to those with the lowest intakes. Further, for every 0.25 mg/dL increase in blood levels of magnesium, the women had a 41 percent lower risk of SCD.
A similar 15-year long study published in 2009 also found that people with the highest blood levels of magnesium had a 40 percent reduction in the risk of SCD, compared to those with the lowest magnesium levels.
Your body uses magnesium to perform more than 300 biochemical reactions, including those that maintain normal muscle and nerve function and keep your heart rhythm steady.
Sudden cardiac death often occurs because the electrical impulses in your heart become rapid and chaotic, leading to an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) that causes your heart to suddenly stop beating. Magnesium is anti-arrhythmic, which means it helps to suppress abnormal rhythms of the heart, thereby lowering your risk of SCD.
What are the Best Dietary Sources of Magnesium, and Who Might be Deficient?
Green leafy vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard are excellent sources of magnesium, as are some beans, nuts and seeds, like almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds. Avocadoes are also a good source.
Surveys suggest, however, that many Americans are not getting enough magnesium from diet alone. As the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements states:
" … dietary surveys suggest that many Americans do not get recommended amounts of magnesium … there is concern that many people may not have enough body stores of magnesium because dietary intake may not be high enough. Having enough body stores of magnesium may be protective against disorders such as cardiovascular disease and immune dysfunction."
In order to ensure you're getting enough, you first need to be sure you're eating a varied, whole-food diet like the one described in my nutrition plan or that's tailored according to your nutritional type. But there are other factors, too, that can make you more prone to magnesium deficiency, including:
- An unhealthy digestive system, which impairs your body's ability to absorb magnesium (Crohn's disease, leaky gut, etc.)
- Unhealthy kidneys, which contribute to excessive loss of magnesium in urine
- Diabetes, especially if it's poorly controlled, leading increased magnesium loss in urine
- Alcoholism -- up to 60 percent of alcoholics have low blood levels of magnesium
- Age -- older adults are more likely to be magnesium deficient because absorption decreases with age and the elderly are more likely to take medications that can interfere with absorption (see below)
- Certain medications -- diuretics, antibiotics and mediations used to treat cancer can all result in magnesium deficiency
If any of these conditions apply to you, you may want to have your magnesium levels checked to ensure you're not deficient. However, most people can keep their levels in the healthy range by eating a varied diet, including plenty of dark-green leafy vegetables.
One important point to mention: the levels of magnesium in your food are dependent on the levels of magnesium in the soil where they're grown. Organic foods may have more magnesium, as most fertilizer used on conventional farms relies heavily on nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium instead of magnesium.
So ideally, eat plenty of organic leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds every day to keep your magnesium stores replenished. Green vegetable juice can also be beneficial.
Additional Steps to Prevent Sudden Death
Heart disease is one of the easiest diseases to prevent and avoid, but you simply must be proactive about it. First, assess your heart disease risk factors. If you have type 2 diabetes, you're already at an increased risk so you can move ahead to my recommendations below. For the rest of you, one of the most important risk factors will be your HDL to cholesterol ratio.
Your total cholesterol level is just about worthless in determining your risk for heart disease, unless it is close to 340 or higher. And, perhaps more importantly, you need to be aware that cholesterol is not the CAUSE of heart disease. If you become overly concerned with trying to lower your cholesterol level to some set number, you will be completely missing the real problem.
In fact, I have seen a number of people with levels over 250 who actually were at low heart disease risk due to their HDL levels. Conversely, I have seen even more who had cholesterol levels under 200 that were at a very high risk of heart disease based on the following additional tests:
- Your HDL/Cholesterol ratio
- Your Triglyceride/HDL ratios
HDL percentage is a very potent heart disease risk factor. Just divide your HDL level by your cholesterol. That percentage should ideally be above 24 percent. Below 10 percent, it's a significant indicator of risk for heart disease. You can also do the same thing with your triglycerides and HDL ratio. That percentage should be below 2.
If You're at Risk …
First, make sure your vitamin D levels are optimized. Like magnesium, low levels of vitamin D in your blood have long been correlated with higher risk of heart disease and heart attacks, and a previous study found women who take vitamin D supplements lower their risk of death from heart disease by one-third.
My one-hour free lecture on vitamin D will tell you what your optimal vitamin D levels should be along with how to safely get them there.