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LE Magazine September 2004
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Magnesium in Hypertension Prevention and Control
By Jay S. Cohen, MD

Should You Take Magnesium?
Unlike potassium, magnesium is not plentiful in a large number of foods. Green vegetables, whole grains, and nuts contain substantial amounts of magnesium. Unless you eat a lot of these foods, however, it is difficult to obtain the RDA on a consistent basis, let alone the higher amounts often needed for treating magnesium deficiencies or high blood pressure and other vascular disorders.

Many people think they get enough magnesium from their multivitamins, but the amount of magnesium in many supplements is inadequate. It is recommended that you start with a low dose of magnesium such as 100 mg taken twice daily with meals, then gradually increase the dose to the RDA. For older people, whose kidney excretion of magnesium is reduced, 100-200 mg per day of magnesium is often sufficient.

People with magnesium deficiencies or hypertension may need even higher daily doses of magnesium. Some integrative practitioners use 600-800 mg per day of magnesium. Magnesium is usually well tolerated in people with normal kidney function, but you should always consult with a health care professional if you are taking more than the RDA. Symptoms of magnesium toxicity are rare and include weakness, slowed heart rate, reduced tendon reflexes, and somnolence.

Summary
Magnesium should be considered by anyone seeking to prevent or treat high blood pressure. The foundation for a healthy blood pressure consists of a healthy diet, adequate exercise, stress reduction, and sufficient amounts of potassium and magnesium. If you eat plentiful amounts of vegetables, you are likely getting plenty of potassium. Sufficient magnesium, on the other hand, is difficult to obtain through diet alone.

If you require medications for high blood pressure, take them as your doctor suggests. For those with borderline or Stage 1 hypertension, however, natural methods can be tried first. If you have done this and your blood pressure is still elevated, see your doctor and inquire about medications that can help. The best way to avoid medication side effects is to use the very lowest dose required to bring your blood pressure down.31,32

Jay Cohen, MD

Magnesium can be used in concert with drugs for hypertension. A friend of mine, an advanced yoga instructor, developed muscle tightness as a side effect of her antihypertensive medication. Supplementing with magnesium allowed her to reduce her medication dose, and her muscle tightness went away.

Of course, the best way to avoid medication side effects is to prevent hypertension from developing in the first place. If you do not have high blood pressure yet, now is the time to initiate preventive measures. Start with lifestyle strategies, including a healthy diet, regular exercise, stress reduction, and avoiding smoking, caffeinated beverages, and chemicals that raise blood pressure. Then make sure that you are getting enough potassium and magnesium, as well as other nutrients known to help control blood pressure.

If your blood pressure is already on the rise, do not hesitate to take action. By the time hypertension is apparent, your arteries have sustained years of injury; damage has already occurred and will continue to accelerate. High blood pressure is a killer, and often more destructive than high cholesterol. Do not wait for your doctor’s instruction—you can start taking steps to prevent hypertension today.

Jay S. Cohen, MD, is the author of OverDose, published by Tarcher/Putnam.

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