#302 4 Scary Heart Problems Magnesium May Prevent

5 Scary Heart Problems Magnesium May Prevent

No one wants unnecessary heart problems, especially scary heart problems magnesium may have prevented. In this article, I share the findings of a study of over 1 million people showing just how effective magnesium is at preventing the worst heart problems.

The Million Person Magnesium Study

To obtain the data of more than a million people, the researchers of this study had to pull the raw data from 40 individual studies. And when they looked at those consuming the highest amount of magnesium, here is what they found:

1.  High magnesium intake was associated with a 22% decreased risk of heart failure.

2. High magnesium intake was linked to 7% lower stroke risk.

3. High magnesium intake was associated with a 19% lower diabetes risk.

4. High magnesium intake was linked to a 10% lower risk of premature death.

The 5th Scary Disease Associated with Low Magnesium Intake

For those of you who read the title of this blog post and then counted up the 4 scary diseases mentioned in the previous paragraph, you may have noticed that one was missing. Sadly, the researchers publishing this million person magnesium study never looked at the association between low magnesium intake and atrial fibrillation. Indeed, studies show that magnesium deficiency can increase your risk of atrial fibrillation by 50%!

Low magnesium levels have long been observed in AFib patients. Magnesium works its magic by calming the cell-to-cell electrical channels in the heart.  It has even been shown to help treat AFib in many studies, and it can make some antiarrhythmics like sotalol or dofetilide much safer. Magnesium can also calm palpitations from premature atrial or ventricular contractions, known as PACs and PVCs.

You Probably Aren’t Getting Enough Magnesium from Your Diet

Studies show that at least half of Americans don’t get enough magnesium from their diet. Basically, the plant-light diet of most Americans means millions upon millions of people are magnesium deficient. Prominent cardiologists have even called magnesium deficiency a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis.

How to Boost Magnesium Levels Naturally

Want to boost your magnesium levels? Probably the most important thing to do would be to triple your vegetable intake (especially triple the “greens” in your diet).  And right behind tripling your greens would be to eat at least one serving of nuts and seeds each day.

Perhaps the best news when it comes to magnesium is that most people don’t need to supplement for it. Unless you are taking a stomach-acid-blocking medicine, or have other gut absorption issues, you can pack your diet full of magnesium just by eating nuts, seeds, and greens—the more greens the better, in fact.

Should You Take a Magnesium Supplement?

If ever there was a supplement that even the most traditional of all traditional doctors could accept, it would have to be magnesium. And magnesium is that essential mineral which is responsible for hundreds of biochemical reactions in the human body.

We have some patients who swear magnesium is the secret to treating their AFib. If that’s true—and some research suggests it may indeed be—it might partly be because it is quite effective at also helping people sleep—and deep, restful, restorative sleep is absolutely vital for anyone who wants to put their AFib into remission.
While I don’t suffer from atrial fibrillation or magnesium deficiency, I still take a magnesium supplement each night.  My personal experience has been similar to that of published medical studies—magnesium simply helps me sleep. It also prevents those annoying middle-of-the-night leg cramps that I often get after a long mountain bike ride.
So long as your kidneys are healthy and you don’t take more than the recommended dosage, magnesium is remarkably safe. The most common side effect is loose stools, which can usually be resolved by simply taking a lower dose or switching to a different form of magnesium. If you do need extra supplementation, and you are concerned about the purity of supplements, your doctor can prescribe a prescription version of magnesium.

The Key Take Away Message

No one wants heart problems—especially the scary heart problems magnesium just might have prevented.  Given the asymmetric risk reward benefit of magnesium, who wouldn’t want to at least give it a try? In the 26 years since I graduated from medical school, I have yet to meet a patient that suffered a side effect from eating too many magnesium rich foods like nuts, seeds, and especially greens. But over that same 26 year period of time, I’m sure my patients have prevented thousands of unnecessary emergency room visits by simply eating more of these foods.

Want to Learn More About Magnesium Deficiency?

Want to learn more about how magnesium can both protect your heart and help with other medical conditions?  Below is a link to a great article I wrote a few years ago on the subject:
In this article I discuss the symptoms associated with magnesium deficiency, how to test for magnesium deficiency, and what medical problems you may be able to avoid by getting enough magnesium in your diet.

As you already know, this article is for general information only and does not provide any medical advice.  If you need medical advice please speak with your physician.

If you have atrial fibrillation and would like to see me as a patient, please call my office at 801-266-3418 to set up an in-person or virtual consultation. Most U.S. insurance plans are accepted. Sorry, international patients aren’t being accepted at this time.

Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.

  1. Hello Dr. John Day,
    I wanted to know your thoughts on the two recent Trial studies on taking large doses of fish oil. They seemed to indicate that taking large doses of fish oil contributed to Atrial Fib. What are your thoughts and do you recommend to stop taking fish oil if you have paroxysmal a fib.
    Thank you very much for your response. I value your Opinion very highly.

    • Hi Rich,

      A great question. Early studies reported that fish oil may help Afib. More recent studies have basically shown no benefit but yet probably no harm either. As everyone’s case is different and some may be on fish oil to lower triglycerides, whether or not you should take fish oil is a topic that would be best discussed with your physician.

  2. So glad you are publishing this newsletter again! You provide the most trustworthy info.
    Congratulations on your new position.
    Hope your family is well.
    Warm regards,
    Kathy Wiedemer (formerly with HRS)

  3. Dr. Day – I saw you for consultation on my high burden PVCs a couple years back, and am happy to report lifestyle, diet, and magnesium supplementation has since resolved these problems. I want to add one important point to your fine articles on this topic, a point I find under-appreciated even among cardiologists and electrophysiologists I have seen: Repleting a long standing, deep tissue magnesium deficiency can take months of increased Mg intake.

    My PVC burden had persisted for over a year at over 20% and medications to suppress this frequency had failed. I had been treating Meziere’s-like inner ear issues with triamterine/HCTZ for nearly a decade, and assuredly urinary wasting of electrolytes was “the elephant in the room.” Importantly, intermittent hypokalemia, or more commonly “low normal K” was a clue to the electrolyte problem I was facing, but serum Mg was always rock steady “normal.” After reading several articles that suggested significant Mg deficiencies often go undetected by serum monitoring, my suspicions increased that intracellular electrolyte imbalance remained my main and perhaps only problem. We were on the verge of ablation when I insisted we first try a long course of Mg/K supplementation, and voila my PVCs went away completely! But here’s the important truth: Repletion for my Mg-deficiency required a sustained, 6 month supplementation with 20 meq slow release KCl and 200 mg Mg-glycinate per day. Over that six month period my PVCs diminished steadily from 20%+ to <1% today. I feel better in so many ways. I exercise more comfortably, sleep better, have lost 35 lbs, and judge my health the best it's been in 20 years. At no point did we attempt direct assessment of intracellular Mg levels, but I am absolutely confident that if we had my story would be even more complete: Mg deficiency was my problem.

    My message to add to what your articles have said is two things:
    (1) Be patient and persistent when addressing a suspected Mg deficiency. Even the best cardiologists and EPs I saw insisted "If Mg/K supplements don't help in a few days, electrolytes are not your problem." They were wrong! Perhaps stronger dosage with supplements could have resolved my depletion more quickly, but the slow and steady 6 month regimen I used was safe, comfortable, and effective.
    (2) Consider requesting monitoring other than relatively useless serum Mg measurements. I suggest the RBC technique, challenge Mg uptakes techniques, or even muscle biopsies should be more commonly available to conclusively diagnose intracellular Mg deficiency. This little recognized problem is, I have come to believe, a public health crisis that deserves a full-frontal campaign of diagnoses.

    Thank you, Dr. Day, for your awareness and excellent communications about the broad importance of recognizing and treating magnesium deficiency. Please share my story as you continue your work.


    • Thanks for your comments, Rick! You are correct…for those severely depleted of magnesium, like what happens when people have been taking diuretics or proton pump inhibitors (Prilosec, Nexium, etc.) for a long time, it can take months to fully replete magnesium stores within the cells. Sadly, most insurance plans don’t cover advanced testing for magnesium deficiency and this testing can be quite costly…Even for those not taking diuretics or proton pump inhibitors, studies show that most Americans suffer from magnesium deficiency due to all of our “modern foods” which have little if any magnesium.

      On a separate note, congratulations on the weight loss and commitment to healthy living! That is a huge accomplishment!!!