Do you suffer from headaches, high blood pressure, leg cramps, risk of fractures due to osteoporosis? Something as simple as a low magnesium blood level may be the cause of these problems. Unfortunately, many individuals have no knowledge of what their magnesium levels are because the medical establishment seldom includes a request for a magnesium blood level when they order routine lab work. In fact, it’s so infrequently ordered that some medical providers can have trouble finding it on their order sheets and many insurance companies don’t cover the cost of this test unless there is a very specific diagnosis supporting the order.
So what can most of us do when it comes to knowing whether or not we’re getting enough of this mineral on a daily basis? Adult women need about 320 milligrams per day in their diets and most men need around 420 milligrams. Many Americans are lucky to get half of this crucial mineral in their daily diets because of a serious lack of vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and dairy consumed on a daily basis. For individuals over 55, when you add in a reduced absorption rate in a typical older gut, seniors are at critical risk of lower blood levels of magnesium leading to many of the problems mentioned above.
Here’s a quick overview of the importance of magnesium:
1. It regulates muscle and nerve function so lower levels of magnesium can trigger muscle cramps, particularly at night which interrupts normal sleep patterns. This interruption adds a whole other dimension of mind and body dysfunction for individuals who become even mildly sleep deprived over time.
2. Recent, as well as past studies, show that magnesium affects heart health in several ways, including regulating blood pressure. Subjects in one study who took 368 milligrams of magnesium daily for three months saw their blood pressures drop. As always, patients should check first with their primary care providers before taking a magnesium supplement. Too much magnesium intake can be just as dangerous as too little.
3. According to The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, a recent study revealed that increasing magnesium in the diet or by supplementation may reduce vitamin D deficiency since magnesium helps activate vitamin D.
4. The National Institutes of Health states that low levels of magnesium interferes with neurotransmitters in the brain and constricts blood vessels, which can cause those pounding headaches so many Americans complain about. Headaches are one of the most common conditions seen in doctors’ offices in America today.
5. Half of all the magnesium found in the body is stored in our bones, so even mild deficiencies can trigger bone loss, a condition commonly found in older adults but now being seen more and more often in younger populations, especially among younger adult females. With Americans consuming less and less diary, particularly milk, this is a worrisome trend seen in child-bearing age women.
The message for all of us is to ensure our diets include more vegetables of all types, adequate amounts of diary products (not just ice cream!), a small handful of a variety of nuts several times a week and beans and legumes of all types. Magnesium is one mineral we can’t afford to be without.