Magnesium and Cardiovascular Disease — A Direct Link and a Health Tip

Magnesium is an essential mineral required in human nutrition. Among nutritional minerals, it’s also one of the most versatile: a broad range of physiologic processes depend on magnesium to function properly. A co-factor for more than 300 enzymatic reactions, magnesium plays a key role in generating metabolic energy in cells. Magnesium helps regulate the contraction and relaxation of blood vessels and muscles. It’s no mystery that the heart, the body’s hardest working muscle, needs magnesium. Magnesium also helps prevent calcification of blood vessels; in the heart this is known as Coronary Artery Calcification or “CAC.”

CAC, an indicator of advanced atherosclerosis, is seen as a predictor of cardiovascular disease. The Framingham Study, a long-term research study conducted by the USDA’s Human Nutrition Center on Aging, examined the magnesium intakes of people who were free of cardiovascular disease at the start, over a period of 11 years. “We observed strong, favorable associations between higher self-reported total (dietary and supplemental) magnesium intake and lower calcification of the coronary arteries,” the researchers reported. In study participants with the highest magnesium intakes, compared to those with the lowest, the odds of having CAC were 58 percent lower. The reports concludes as follows: “In community-dwelling participants free of cardiovascular disease, self-reported magnesium intake was inversely associated with arterial calcification, which may play a contributing role in magnesium’s protective associations in stroke and fatal coronary heart disease.”

So here’s an important health tip: If you’re not consuming an abundance of magnesium-rich foods on a daily basis, taking a magnesium supplement is a safe, low-cost way to make sure you’re adequately nourished with this potentially life-saving essential mineral.

Hruby A, et al. Magnesium intake is inversely associated with coronary artery calcification: the Framingham Heart Study. JACC Cardiovasc Imaging. 2014 Jan;7(1):59-69.