As a mineral, magnesium scores huge points for its essential role in helping the body function properly. Here are just a few things that make it an important part of a regular diet: It aids in regulating blood pressure, maintaining a steady heart rate, and promoting bone strength.
However, most Americans of all ages are not getting enough magnesium to meet average requirements, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Lack of magnesium can manifest itself in numerous ways, including feelings of exhaustion and muscle cramps.
A magnesium deficiency also can go undetected, with many people not experiencing symptoms yet experiencing the long-term effects.
For example, inflammation, which has been linked to critical health issues including diabetes, cancer and heart disease, is a common side effect or symptom of a magnesium deficiency in adults who do not take the recommended amount of magnesium daily. Another risk factor that appears to be associated with low magnesium is osteoporosis.
Magnesium has been used to treat other ailments including severe asthma attacks and certain issues that may arise during pregnancy. It’s also been shown to assist in the prevention of high blood pressure and is one of the top ingredients in multiple antacids.
While serious deficiencies of magnesium are not common, they are most likely to appear in people with kidney disease, digestive conditions, thyroid issues, and alcohol abuse problems. When this level of deficiency occurs, it is important to speak with a physician about taking a magnesium supplement.
Low levels of magnesium have also been associated with common medications, called proton pump inhibitors, that are often used in the treatment of acid reflux. Anyone taking a proton pump inhibitor such as Nexium or Prilosec for long-term care should have blood levels tested regularly by a physician and may also be in need of a magnesium supplement.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, good food sources of magnesium include dark green, leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, peas, beans, soy products, whole grains, and milk. If a person is not getting enough of these foods through diet alone, it’s time to consider talking to a healthcare provider about whether or not a magnesium supplement is needed.
With all of the potential health benefits of magnesium and potential illnesses that can occur from a deficiency, it’s important for people to know what their levels of magnesium are and what can be done if more is needed.