Key mineral may help stave off heart problems

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Magnesium: Who needs it?

Before dealing with the title topic there needs to be a gentle reminder for you, the reader, as follows: Ignore your health and it will go away -- I promise.

Now about magnesium. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. It is needed for 300 chemical reactions in the body.

So the answer to the question is that everybody needs it. And most people get enough by eating the right foods.

Some medicines can cause low magnesium levels. Among the people who may have low levels are folks who do a poor job of controlling their diabetes, anyone who substitutes alcohol for food and folks who eat a lot of enriched white flour. Also, people with digestive tract diseases such as Crohn's disease or problems handling gluten.

Among the foods that are rich in magnesium are whole grains,dark green leafy vegetables, legumes such beans and garbanzos and halibut.

A recent issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has an article describing how magnesium may help prevent sudden cardiac death.

About 55 percent of men and 68 percent of women who die a sudden cardiac death have never been diagnosed with heart disease. In trying to determine what might be some of the causes for this researchers followed 88,000 women for 26 years and found that low intake of magnesium was indeed linked to sudden death. Women who consumed more than 345 milligrams per day had a lower risk of sudden cardiac death than those who consumed the least (260 mg or less) Women with the highest levels had a 77 percent lower risk of than those with the lowest levels. More studies need to be done before it can be claimed for sure that magnesium can prevent sudden death.

Obviously some folks are going to wonder what is the case with men. So far as I can determine no one has done a study on men similar to the one done on women. It only seems logical to me given all the actions of magnesium in the body that some of the sudden cardiac deaths in men are related to low levels of magnesium.

In general older people will be more likely to need to take magnesium as a supplement. You can buy magnesium without a prescription and one of the best forms is magnesium oxide. It can act as a laxative and it is possible to get too much of it. It is recommended that no one start taking it without contacting a health care provider.

Those who have Internet access can get more information by checking this website: ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/magnesium.

Dr. Don Casebolt of College Place is a retired physician who is passionate about preventive medicine. He spent 4 years as a medical officer in the U.S. Navy, the last 21/2 years as a flight surgeon. He also worked on the Navajo Reservation for 22 years.

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