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Magnesium key to heart health, but are you getting enough? Magnesium deficiency may be more common than you think, but this vital nutrient can be found in many common foods.

Unlike sodium, potassium and calcium, magnesium is an essential mineral that doesn't tend to get a lot of attention. Your doctor may advise you frequently about cutting back on sodium for your blood pressure or boosting your calcium intake for bone health. But magnesium, which is involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body, isn't likely to come up in conversation all that often. But maybe that should change. Research suggets that many of us aren't getting enough magnesium. A report from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey noted that at least half of the U.S. population has inadequate magnesium intake.

But fixing that problem is as simple as incorporating more whole grains into your diet, along with several types of nuts, fruits and vegetables.

"Whole grains contain more magnesium, which is a mineral our body needs in adequate amounts in order to control blood pressure, regulate heart rhythm and prevent chest pain," says Katherine Patton, RD, clinical dietitian with Preventive Cardiology at Cleveland Clinic.

Magnesium basics

Along with helping your heart function properly, magnesium is necessary for muscle and nerve function, bone strength, a healthy immune system and for making protein. Men should get about 400 mg of magnesium daily, while women should aim for 320 mg.

You may not notice a mild magnesium deficiency. But low levels in your body can result in obvious symptoms, such as fatigue and muscle cramps. Unfortunately, those symptoms are common to many conditions.

Complicating matters is that testing for magnesium deficiency is difficult. That's because most magnesium resides in the bones, not in the bloodstream. So a standard blood test won't provide an accurate view of your magnesium levels. In fact, diagnosing l magnesium deficiency is often done " by examining a patient's lifestyle and using the process of elimination to determine the problem.

Maximizing magnesium intake

To help maintain healthy magnesium levels in your body, Patton says the simplest and best way is to incorporate magnesium-rich foods into your daily diet, rather than relying on a vitamin supplement.

"I would encourage people to get more magnesium from their diet first, because they will end up getting other nutrients the body needs, too," Patton says.

Along with whole grains, magnesium-rich foods include almonds, cashews, peanuts, spinach, legumes, avocadoes and bananas, Patton says. If your diet doesn't provide sufficient magnesium, you may benefit from supplements. Patton also notes that individuals who take diuretics may also need supplements, because magnesium may be lost in urination.

"Excessive sweating through exercise also could cause depletion, and may warrant supplementation," Patton says, adding that even stress can cause magnesium levels to drop. "In all these cases, choosing a chelated magnesium supplement is a good idea, since it is more readily absorbed."

However, Patton adds that you should not start taking chelated magnesium or any supplement without first talking with your doctor. This is especially true if you take prescription medications.

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Title Annotation:NUTRITION
Publication:Heart Advisor
Date:Mar 1, 2015
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