Magnesium has many beneficial effects within the circulation, from helping to regulate calcium flow in and out of cells, to relaxing artery walls, lowering blood pressure and improving peripheral blood flow.
In fact, magnesium is so important for a healthy circulation that people with high blood levels are less likely to develop high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or to have calcified coronary arteries than those with low levels.
Magnesium reduces blood pressure
A study involving healthy people, with no symptoms of cardiovascular disease, underlines the importance of obtaining good intakes of magnesium.
A total of 1,276 volunteers, aged 30 to 75 years, had a full medical check-up, including a CT scan of their coronary arteries. Their blood pressure were also checked and, after adjusting for other known risk factors (such as weight, age, gender, education level, physical activity, waist size, smoking, alcohol intake, cholesterol levels, medication and whether or not they had a family or personal history of diabetes) those with the highest magnesium levels (above 2.18 mg/dl) were 48 % less likely to have hypertension, 69% less likely to have type 2 diabetes, and 42% less likely to have calcified coronary arteries compared to those with the lowest magnesium level (below 1.97 mg/dl).
In fact, for every 0.17 mg/dl increase in serum magnesium, there was a corresponding 16% lower risk of having calcified coronary arteries.
This study supports previous findings among 7216 adults, aged 55 – 80 years, that people with the highest dietary intakes of magnesium were 37% less likely to die from any medical cause, over a 5 year follow-up period, than those with the lowest intakes.
Low magnesium intakes are common. Adults need 375mg per day according to the EU Nutrient Reference Value or 400mg according to the US Daily Value, but average adult intakes are around 323 mg for males and 228mg for females.
Aim to eat more magnesium-rich foods such as:
- nuts (especially Brazil nuts, almonds and cashews)
- seeds (especially pumpkin seeds)
- dark green leaves (especially spinach and Swiss chard)
- beans (especially soy, lentils and white beans)
- fish (especially mackerel)
- dried fruit (especially figs)
- wholegrains (especially quinoa, millet, Bulgur wheat and brown rice).
Drinking water in hard-water areas is another good source of magnesium, as is dark chocolate, which supplies as much as 89mg magnesium per 100g bar. Chocolate-coated Brazils are a match made in hypertension heaven.
If you decide to take a magnesium supplement, do not take more than 400mg magnesium per day or you may get a brisk laxative effect (not always a bad thing).
If your blood pressure is raised, self-monitoring is key to maintaining good control.
Click here for advice on choosing a blood pressure monitor to use at home.
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