Magnesium to Prevent Afib: Does It Work?
February 13, 2024
It’s a nutrient that not many of us think of, but magnesium plays a significant role in bodily regulation. From sleep issues to headaches and muscular disorders throughout the body, including the heart, a magnesium deficiency can create potentially serious problems. Fortunately, magnesium is also easy to consume and absorb. Seeds, nuts, leafy greens, and even seafood, amongst other foods, are all good sources of magnesium and can keep your body balanced and healthy.
Magnesium’s Afib Protective Effects
Before continuing, we must understand Afib is not composed of a single underlying condition but rather several issues contributing to the end condition. Magnesium may be among many, but it is likely not the primary factor for Afib development. A magnesium deficiency correlates with a greater incidence of Afib episodes, but magnesium supplementation has not been shown to prevent Afib, especially in patients with already normal magnesium levels.
Speaking to your primary care physician and nutritionist becomes very important now. First, checking for a magnesium deficiency is as easy as a blood test during your annual check-up. Whether magnesium should be supplemented can be discussed at that point. At the same time, the studies on Afib and magnesium are relatively small in sample size and have yet to give us definitive proof, one way or the other. As such, we don’t consider magnesium a definitive preventative measure for Afib, nor should it be considered a treatment protocol for the condition.
That said, there is evidence that intravenous magnesium administered at the hospital during an acute fib episode can help end the episode, so we know there is some benefit, at least in the short term.
How Much Magnesium Should I Take?
You and your primary care physician will have to discuss this question. You will likely be asked to increase your dietary intake of magnesium-rich foods to start (See common foods containing magnesium below). If dietary changes alone do not make a difference, you may require supplementation. Even within the supplementation world, there are several different kinds of magnesium, some of which are more bioavailable than others, and this is something you can discuss with a nutritionist or your doctor. As a rule of thumb, magnesium citrate and L-threonate are more bioavailable than magnesium oxide.
Are the FDA-Recommended Levels of Magnesium Correct?
This has been a point of contention and is something you should speak to your doctor and nutritioniFDAst about, as they may help you vary your dose to see what kind of benefit you receive. Recommended daily allowances often use older data and will eventually be updated to reflect what we now know about supplements. As such, you may or may not need more magnesium than the RDAs recommend. The upper limit for supplements is 350mg, after which you may experience GI issues.
The bottom line is that we do not know about magnesium’s full effect on the heart, and making a recommendation one way or the other is tough. We know that several nutritional deficiencies can affect proper functioning in the body. Magnesium can be one of them. Visit your primary care physician to get a complete blood count and understand your magnesium levels. From there, you can discuss an appropriate supplementation regimen or modifications to your diet to address the deficiency. From an electrophysiologist standpoint, we want our patients to do everything possible to prevent Afib or treat existing episodes with proper diet and exercise. We encourage this as a front-line treatment. However, patients who have not been able to control their Afib need to start intervention with medical or procedural (cardiac catheter ablation) interventions to minimize the risk of the worst consequences of untreated Afib, which can include stroke, heart attack, and a significantly higher risk of long-term heart failure.