Would you like to know if you're at a high risk of heart disease? Well, what if I told you that you could not only predict whether you're at risk of heart disease with a high degree of certainty, but also know what you need to do to correct it? And you can do this with one test? I bet you'd be interested. The good news is that this is easy, as long as you know what to look for.
Contrary to popular belief, it's not your cholesterol levels or your saturated fat intake that you should worry about. You've probably heard it all lately: "Some cholesterol is good." "Some cholesterol is bad." "Cholesterol isn't what's important anymore." "Saturated fat is the enemy!" "Saturated fat is fine — eat butter!" "Saturated fat is misunderstood." It's hard to know what to believe.
There's a reason there's so much conflicting information. There's an underlying mechanism that affects not just your cholesterol levels and how your body handles saturated fat, but also almost every metabolic process in your body. There's a single nutrient that's essential to your cardiovascular health, to your blood pressure, and to your muscles' ability to relax. And if you're deficient in this nutrient, you're at a significant risk of heart disease.
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This nutrient, the deficiency of which has been associated with cardiac arrhythmias, ischemic heart disease, sudden cardiac death, hypertension, transient ischemic attacks, and stroke, isn't something flashy like vitamin D or calcium. In fact, calcium has overshadowed this nutrient, to our detriment. But dating back all the way to the 1930s, researchers have been discovering that magnesium is essential to cardiovascular health.
Magnesium is so vital to your cardiovascular system that a deficiency in this nutrient, a condition called hypomagnesemia, is the best predictor of heart disease that we have. If you have hypomagnesemia, you're likely to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, atherogenesis, hardened arteries, and calcified soft tissues. Magnesium does work hand-in-hand with calcium, but the focus we've put on dietary calcium without an equal focus on magnesium has caused our ratios of the two to become severely imbalanced. And calcium without its partner of magnesium can actually do more harm than good.
It’s important to know if you have sufficient magnesium levels, particularly if you have any concerns about or signs of heart disease. Your doctor can test your RBC magnesium levels, which is a more informative test than one that only looks at your serum levels. Your serum levels represent only about 1% of your body’s stores, so by the time you’re low there, you’re in trouble. The RBC test is more comprehensive. Whether you’re low or not, you’ll find magnesium in plant sources, such as green leafy vegetables, as well as nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. In supplement form, most people can easily tolerate 400-500 mg per day. If you take too much magnesium, nothing bad will happen. You’ll just start to get gas and loose stools. So if that happens, back off to a tolerable dose. My favorite form of magnesium is magnesium glycinate. Magnesium citrate is also a good form. The worst form is magnesium oxide.
You may also want to discuss your calcium intake with a doctor well-versed in the interaction between calcium and magnesium. The studies show that taking more than 500 mg per day of a calcium supplement can produce heart disease. So keep the levels below that. Your heart will thank you!
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD