Magnesium for Heart Disease…And More
Julian Whitaker, MD
If I had to choose just one supplement to use on a regular basis, it would likely be magnesium. This mineral is one of the most potent, versatile, and safe therapies available. Yet it is woefully underused in American medicine. The following stories and studies illustrate the healing power of miraculous magnesium.
Smoothes Out Arrhythmias
Chuck, an 18-year-old patient of mine, was an avid biker who routinely rode his mountain bike in the hills of Southern California. This is an arduous sport that requires huge energy expenditures and results in copious sweating, especially when temperatures start to climb.
During his rides, Chuck would occasionally notice his heart beating irregularly and sometimes skipping a beat altogether. One day, his heartbeat became so out of whack that he could no longer pedal, and his friends had to drag him back into town. When he showed up at my office the next day, I took his pulse and found that his heart was skipping every second or third beat.
An EKG confirmed my suspicion—Chuck was experiencing ventricular arrhythmia.
Strenuous exercise had obviously depleted Chuck of electrolytes, and I was particularly concerned about his level of magnesium. So we replenished his fluids and administered intravenous (IV) magnesium. His arrhythmia stopped immediately. After an hour of observation with no more skipped beats, we sent him home and told him to come back in a few days. When Chuck returned, his heartbeat was normal, and he was back to mountain biking again in no time.
Saves Lives After Heart Attacks
Magnesium also has a long and well-documented history as a therapy for other serious cardiovascular problems. IV magnesium, when administered as soon as possible after a heart attack, saves lives.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, British researchers administered IV magnesium sulfate or a saline solution to 2,000 patients within 24 hours of heart attack onset. Incredibly, patients receiving magnesium had 24 percent fewer deaths. And one to five years later, the cardiovascular death rate was 21 percent lower in those who had been treated with magnesium.
Unfortunately, you can’t count on receiving this lifesaving therapy if you’re rushed to the ER in the throes of a heart attack or serious arrhythmia. IV magnesium is rarely, if ever, used for these purposes in conventional medicine.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Additionally, magnesium lowers blood pressure. This mineral relaxes the smooth muscle tissues that dilate the arteries and reduce blood pressure.
Earlier this year, Korean researchers conducted a study to evaluate the effects of supplemental magnesium. They found that among the study participants with hypertension, those who took 300 mg of magnesium daily for three months had marked reductions in blood pressure compared to those who took a placebo pill. Systolic/diastolic pressures fell 17.1/6.7 mmHg in the magnesium group and 3.4/0.8 in the placebo group.
Results might have been even more significant with higher doses. A few years ago, a meta-analysis involving 20 randomized clinical trials revealed that for each 240 mg increase in magnesium intake, systolic/diastolic pressures dropped by an average of 4.3/2.3 mmHg. Why is this important? Because whenever systolic pressure decreases by 20 points and diastolic pressure falls 10 points, your risk of having a stroke or developing heart disease is cut in half!
Halts Asthma Attacks
Magnesium’s benefits are not limited to the cardiovascular system—as I was reminded recently when I ran into Jeff, a dental student I met 10 years ago when he was an adolescent suffering from asthma.
Back then, Jeff was no stranger to emergency room visits. He relied on rescue inhalers and was taking other medications in a vain attempt to get a handle on his condition. So his parents brought him to Whitaker Wellness. When I first saw Jeff, he was in the middle of a mild asthma attack, so we hooked him up to an IV magnesium drip. His attack was immediately alleviated. Jeff left the clinic on several nutritional supplements—among them magnesium—and his asthma eventually disappeared for good.
Just as magnesium relaxes the smooth muscles of the arteries and improves blood flow, it also relaxes the airways and thus acts as a bronchodilator. Even after traditional treatments such as epinephrine and steroids have failed, IV magnesium—if it’s used—can be lifesaving. But therein lies the problem.
A 2006 survey of emergency room doctors found that although the majority of them knew about the research supporting this therapy for asthma, only 2.5 percent of patients seen for acute attacks were given IV magnesium.
Prevents Diabetes and Its Complications
Anyone concerned about diabetes should also be taking magnesium. Swedish scientists reviewed the published studies that looked at magnesium and risk of diabetes and found that for every 100 mg increase in daily intake of magnesium, there was a 15 percent decrease in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Magnesium is even more important if you already have diabetes. Diabetes is a nutritional wasting disease. When blood sugar is high, it becomes a powerful diuretic that leads to increased urination. Unfortunately, this results in losses of virtually all water-soluble nutrients, leading to deficiencies in a number of vitamins and minerals—including magnesium.
This is problematic because low magnesium levels not only make controlling blood sugar more difficult but also increase risk of diabetic complications. For example, studies show that individuals with the lowest levels of magnesium are the most likely to have severe diabetic retinopathy. As you can see, shoring up on magnesium is absolutely critical for people with diabetes or metabolic syndrome.
Improves Sleep and Endurance
This mineral is also helpful for more run-of-the-mill problems. One of my patients, Elizabeth, had a long history of insomnia. Her busy mind made sleep elusive. She wanted to try something safe and natural that wouldn’t leave her with the groggy “hangover” that many sleep aids cause, so I suggested she try magnesium citrate half an hour before bedtime.
It changed her life. “Before I started following Dr. Whitaker’s advice, I would lie awake with my mind going a mile a minute. But now, I sleep like a baby and wake up feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.”
At the opposite end of the spectrum, magnesium also improves energy and endurance. Both intravenous and injected magnesium have been successfully used to treat chronic fatigue, and we often give magnesium shots to patients complaining of low energy. These injections, which patients can learn to give themselves, often result in significant increases in energy and vitality.
Give Magnesium a Try
Do you have migraine headaches? Oral magnesium helps reduce their frequency and severity. Are you prone to kidney stones? Magnesium and vitamin B6 cut recurrences by 92 percent in one study. How about muscle spasms, cramps, or twitches? Magnesium will probably help. Preeclampsia? IV magnesium is the treatment of choice for this pregnancy-related disorder. Magnesium supplements even help relieve constipation and back pain.
If you have any of the conditions mentioned above, give magnesium a try or talk to your doctor about injections or IV infusions. Don’t be surprised if you run into a brick wall. It is astounding to me that people from all over the country have to come all the way to my clinic in California to receive the benefits of this highly effective therapy. Any doctor could easily administer magnesium infusions or injections, but they do not—and for no reason other than arrogant ignorance.
- The suggested dose of oral magnesium is 400–1,000 mg daily. It comes in several forms (citrate, aspartate, etc.) and all are acceptable. For nighttime use, I recommend a rapidly bioavailable, powdered form of magnesium citrate called Magna-Calm. To use, dissolve in water and drink approximately 30 minutes before bedtime. It is available online from various retailers or by calling (800) 810-6655.
- Large amounts of magnesium can cause diarrhea. To avoid this potential side effect, build up your dose gradually.
- If you’re interested in receiving IV magnesium or magnesium injections at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call (866) 944-8253.
- Jee SH, et al. The effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Am J Hypertens. 2002 Aug;15(8):691–696.
- Larsson SC, et al. Magnesium intake and risk of type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. J Intern Med. 2007 Aug;262(2):208–214.
- Lee S, et al. Effects of oral magnesium supplementation on insulin sensitivity and blood pressure in normo-magnesemic nondiabetic overweight Korean adults. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2009 Apr 7. [Epub ahead of print]
- Rowe BH, et al. The use of magnesium sulfate in acute asthma: rapid uptake of evidence in North American emergency departments. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006 Jan;117(1):53–58.
- Woods KL, et al. Long-term outcome after intravenous magnesium sulphate in suspected acute myocardial infarction: the second Leicester Intravenous Magnesium Intervention Trial (LIMIT-2). Lancet. 1994 Apr 2;343(8901):816–819.
Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.