Buckle up with Heart-Healthy Nutrients
By Dr. Scott Olson
While you are probably the type of person who straps on a seatbelt when getting into your car, you may not have thought about what you can do to safeguard your cardiovascular system from the damage it might encounter on the road of life.
On this road, you are more likely to die due to problems associated with your cardiovascular system than any other disease. Around 40% of all deaths today can be traced back to problems with the cardiovascular system; this dwarfs the second highest cause of death, cancer (at around 25%).
There is a way to help prevent heart disease and stroke, and it comes in the form of two powerful nutrients. Similar to how the belt and buckle work together to protect you and possibly save your life, a vitamin and mineral work together to protect your entire cardiovascular system.
Magnesium and folic acid are the nutrients which researchers are discovering have a powerful effect on preventing cardiovascular disease. They play multiple roles in your body and create a powerful protective combination against heart disease and stroke.
Scientists are also discovering that inflammation may be the culprit in a number of diseases, especially those that attack the cardiovascular system.
Most types of strokes and heart attack begin with clogged arteries (atherosclerosis). While the actual clogging of the arteries is what eventually causes a stroke or a heart attack, only in the last few years has research begun to ask the question, why do arteries get clogged in the first place?
The answer to this question seems to be inflammation.
Researchers can measure the amount of inflammation in the body by looking at blood markers such as C-reactive protein, and other chemicals called interleukins. People who have a high amount of these blood markers have a high amount of inflammation. Having a high amount of inflammation puts people at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke.
Lab tests can also measure how much folic acid and magnesium people have in their bodies. When they compare how much magnesium and folic acid is present in someone’s body, they find that it is inversely related to their amount of inflammation.1, 2Typically, the lower the amount of folic acid and magnesium, the greater the amount of inflammation.
Due to how these two nutrients lower inflammation in your body, supplementing with both folic acid and magnesium can help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Hypertension and Homocysteine
It is well known that continued high blood pressure is very damaging to the entire cardiovascular system. People with high blood pressure are at greater risk for stroke, heart attacks, aneurysms, and even kidney failure.
Another reason why these nutrients work so well in preventing cardiovascular disease lies in magnesium’s effects on high blood pressure and folic acid’s relationship with homocysteine.
Magnesium is very helpful for high blood pressure. Whenever medical doctors want to lower high blood pressure quickly, they will use an intravenous (IV) solution that contains magnesium. Magnesium’s blood pressure-lowering ability is well researched and reliable.3
Homocysteine is another story. Homocysteine is an amino acid found in your blood. For reasons not quite clear, people with high homocysteine levels have a higher risk of atherosclerosis. Folic acid, along with vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, will lower homocysteine levels.4
All Supplements Created Equal?
Before you rush out and pick up a supplement that contains both magnesium and folic acid, take a minute to make sure it is the best you can get.
A lot of vitamins are cheap, but those usually won’t do you much good. This is because the cheap forms of these nutrients are not easily absorbed into your body. The most absorbable forms of magnesium are chelated, especially dimagnesium malate, magnesium citrate, or magnesium glycinate.
So, adding a seatbelt to your cardiovascular system is pretty easy. Start taking a good supplement with magnesium and folic acid, and your heart will thank you.
- Solini A, Santini E, Ferrannini E: Effect of short-term folic acid supplementation on insulin sensitivity and inflammatory markers in overweight subjects. Int J Obes (Lond). 2006 Aug;30(8):1197-202.
- King DE, Mainous et al: Dietary magnesium and C-reactive protein levels. J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Jun;24(3):166-71.)
- Fox C, Ramsoomair D, Carter C: Magnesium: its proven and potential clinical significance. South Med J. 2001 Dec;94(12):1195-201.
- Stanger O, Herrmann W, Pietrzik K, et al: Clinical use and rational management of homocysteine, folic acid, and B vitamins in cardiovascular and thrombotic diseases. Z Kardiol. 2004 Jun;93(6):439-53.