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How Low Magnesium Can Put Your Life at Risk

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Low magnesium levels can have serious consequences for your health, including an increased risk of heart attack and arrhythmia.

Magnesium is a mineral that plays a vital role in many bodily functions, such as energy production, nerve transmission, muscle contraction, blood pressure regulation, and blood sugar control. It also helps maintain the balance of other electrolytes, such as calcium, potassium, and sodium.

But can low magnesium kill you?

Yes, it can. Low magnesium levels can have fatal consequences for your heart and brain. In fact, low magnesium has been linked with sudden cardiac death or heart attacks. There can also be a risk of developing cardiac arrhythmias which can become fatal.

So how do you know if you have low magnesium levels? And what can you do to prevent or treat it? In this article, we will answer these questions and more.

What causes low magnesium levels?

Low magnesium levels, also known as hypomagnesemia, usually happen due to one of the following reasons:

  • Poor dietary intake: Magnesium is found in many foods, such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, dairy products, fish, and meat. However, many people do not eat enough of these foods or consume processed foods that are low in magnesium. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about half of the U.S. population does not get enough magnesium from their diet.
  • Increased losses: Magnesium can be lost from the body through urine, sweat or stool. Some factors that can increase magnesium losses include chronic diarrhea, vomiting, kidney disease, alcohol use disorder, diabetes, malabsorption syndromes (such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease), certain medications (such as diuretics, antibiotics or proton pump inhibitors) and excessive sweating.
  • Reduced absorption: Magnesium is absorbed mainly in the small intestine and colon. Some conditions that can impair magnesium absorption include intestinal inflammation, surgery, infection or injury. Some medications (such as antacids or laxatives) can also interfere with magnesium absorption by binding to it or changing the pH of the gut.
  • Increased demand: Magnesium is used by many enzymes and hormones in the body. Some situations that can increase the demand for magnesium include pregnancy, lactation, growth, stress, exercise and illness.

What are the symptoms of low magnesium levels?

Low magnesium levels can affect your neuromuscular system and your heart. Some people may not have any symptoms at all (asymptomatic), while others may experience mild or severe symptoms depending on the severity of the deficiency.

Some of the common symptoms of low magnesium levels include:

  • Fatigue and weakness: Magnesium is involved in energy production and muscle function. Low magnesium levels can make you feel tired and weak.
  • Muscle spasms, cramps and twitches: Magnesium helps relax your muscles and prevent excessive contraction. Low magnesium levels can cause involuntary muscle movements or pain.
  • Numbness and tingling: Magnesium helps regulate nerve conduction and transmission. Low magnesium levels can cause abnormal sensations in your hands and feet.
  • Abnormal eye movements (nystagmus): Magnesium helps control eye movements and coordination. Low magnesium levels can cause involuntary eye movements or difficulty focusing.
  • Personality changes: Magnesium helps regulate mood and cognitive function. Low magnesium levels can cause irritability, anxiety, depression or confusion.
  • Seizures: Magnesium helps prevent overexcitation of nerve cells and protects against oxidative stress. Low magnesium levels can cause convulsions or loss of consciousness.
  • Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia): Magnesium helps maintain normal electrical activity and contraction of the heart. Low magnesium levels can cause irregular heartbeat or palpitations.
can low magnesium kill you

How to prevent or treat low magnesium levels?

The best way to prevent or treat low magnesium levels is to ensure adequate intake of magnesium-rich foods. The NIH recommends the following daily amounts of dietary magnesium for adults:

AgeMaleFemalePregnantLactating
19–30 years400 mg310 mg350 mg310 mg
31–50 years420 mg320 mg360 mg320 mg
51+ years420 mg320 mgN/AN/A

Some of the foods that are high in magnesium include:

  • Spinach (1 cup cooked): 157 mg.
  • Almonds (1 ounce): 80 mg.
  • Black beans (1 cup cooked): 120 mg.
  • Pumpkin seeds (1 ounce): 156 mg.
  • Quinoa (1 cup cooked): 118 mg.
  • Yogurt (1 cup plain): 42 mg.
  • Salmon (3 ounces cooked): 26 mg.
  • Banana (1 medium): 32 mg.

You can also use a magnesium supplement if you have a medical condition that causes low magnesium levels or if you cannot get enough magnesium from your diet. 

However, you should always consult your healthcare provider before taking any supplement, as some supplements may interact with medications or cause side effects. 

The NIH advises not to exceed the upper limit of magnesium intake from supplements, which is 350 mg per day for adults.

Conclusion

Magnesium is an essential mineral that supports many functions in your body. Low magnesium levels can have serious consequences for your health, especially for your heart and brain. 

Therefore, it is important to be aware of the causes, symptoms, and prevention of magnesium deficiency. 

By eating a balanced diet that includes magnesium-rich foods and taking supplements if needed, you can ensure optimal magnesium levels and protect your well-being.

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