Stress, Magnesium and Heart Health

Stress Combined With Magnesium Deficiency Can Wreak Havoc on Your Heart.

If stress hormones cause blood magnesium to fall to levels that are so low (hypomagnesemic) that the cells are abnormally low in magnesium, an indication of magnesium depletion, arterial spasms can result. How? In studies in which a volunteer was slowly infused with the stress hormone adrenaline for a period of three hours, there was a decline of plasma magnesium, as well as of calcium, potassium, and sodium. Since adequate magnesium levels in arterial muscle cells cause the arteries to relax, or dilate, arteries constrict when magnesium levels are low. This is a consequence of calcium moving into the cells of the arteries to replace the missing magnesium; calcium causes arterial muscle contraction. If this occurs in the coronary arteries, the chest pain of angina pectoris can ensue as a direct consequence of magnesium loss. The angina pain is an alarm signal saying: Stop! Unwind! Relax!” In experiments such as the one mentioned above, when the infusion of adrenaline stopped, the level of that hormone in the blood drops after only five minutes, but it takes the heart half an hour to slow to its normal rate. The blood potassium level rises to normal again in that same half hour, but the level of the magnesium in the blood can remain lowered even longer. Thus, if magnesium stores are low when an acute stress reaction develops, the heart is endangered. Severe, unremitting stress can deplete magnesium, creating a substantial risk of injury to the heart – its muscle and its control of how fast or regularly it beats.

Magnesium deficiency exacerbates these physiological reactions to acute stress, while mildly high blood magnesium tones them down. In addition, in a magnesium-deficient body, stress elicits a greater hormonal response than it would if that body were adequate in magnesium – quite a bit greater. The stress response is thus even more intense, making the magnesium requirement even higher and less likely to be met.

Article By Mildred S. Seelig, MD., MPH and Andrea Rosanoff, Ph.D.

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