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Want to prevent a stroke? Try magnesium

Harold Mandel's picture
Delicious, nutritious magnesium rich spinach

The best way to avoid the frightening potential consequences of a stroke is to take aggressive preventative measures, such as increasing your magnesium intake. A healthy lifestyle and good all around nutrition are of paramount importance in helping you to avoid a stroke. You should lead a more active life with daily exercise, eat less fatty and sugary food to keep your weight under control and find more time to relax. Also, it's a good idea to avoid too much alcohol and to avoid smoking.

Stroke mortality has been declining in recent years, reports the journal Stroke. This decline is good news in view of how devastating being hit with a stroke can be. In the United States stroke has fallen from the third to the fourth leading cause of death. This is representative of a significant improvement in the overall health of the population. We are seeing fewer lives lost to stroke as a reflection of the success of public health initiatives to lower stroke risk. There has been a lower incidence of stroke and lower case-fatality rates.

These dramatic improvements in stroke outcomes are associated with improvements in cardiovascular risk factor control interventions. It appears that improved efforts at hypertension control have had the most significant influence on the accelerated decline in stroke mortality. It also appears that improved diabetes mellitus and dyslipidemia control and smoking cessation programs, particularly when these programs are in combination with the treatment of hypertension, have also had a significant impact on the decline in stroke mortality. Access to telemedicine which covers stroke care may also be having a positive impact on stroke mortality.
It is considered very significant from both a public health and clinical medicine perspective that stroke mortality has been declining.

In a news release on Dec. 5, 2013 the American Heart Association reports on the research findings that U.S. stroke deaths have been declining due to improved prevention and treatment. The significant decline in U.S. stroke deaths in recent decades has been due to better blood pressure control, improved stop-smoking programs and faster treatment. Daniel T. Lackland, Dr. P.H., has said, “The decline in stroke deaths is one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th and 21st centuries.” Dr. Lackland explains that this decline is for real, and is not simply a statistical error. This observation is also not a result of more people dying of lung disease, which is now the third leading cause of death.

It appears that sustained public health initiatives which have been aimed at lowering blood pressure and hypertension control, which began in the 1970s, have contributed greatly to this change. The prevention of strokes has also been due to the following:

1: Smoking cessation programs

2: Improved control of diabetes

3: Improved control of abnormal cholesterol levels

4: Better and faster treatment

Another interesting consideration in lowering stroke risk is that resveratrol in red wine may build brain resistance to stroke, as reported upon in an article by EmaxHealth reporter Deborah Mitchell.

Dr. Lakeland says these positive changes can not be attributed to any one or two specific actions or factors. Many different prevention and treatment strategies have had a positive impact. There is now evidence for policymakers that the money which has been spent on stroke research and programs directed at stroke prevention and treatment have been spent wisely and that lives have been saved.

The public has been seeing the dramatic benefits of lowering your blood pressure, stopping smoking, controlling your cholesterol and diabetes, and exercising and eating less salt. Better sleep may also be important in stroke prevention. Sleep deprivation is reported to increase stroke risk, writes EmaxHealth reporter Robin Wulffson, MD.

Dr. Carolyn Dean has investigated the positive benefits of magnesium for stroke prevention. Thomas Edison once said: “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest her or his patients in the care of the human frame, in a proper diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” With these thoughts in mind Dr. Dean has been recognized as the Doctor of the Future. Dr. Dean is not only a medical doctor, she is also a naturopath, herbalist, acupuncturist, nutritionist, lecturer, consultant, and author.

Dr. Dean reports on findings of a correlation between increased dietary magnesium intake and stroke reduction in the Natural Medical Journal. Research has shown that for each 100 mg increase in magnesium intake, risk of stroke was reduced by 8 percent. It has been suggested that health practitioners can easily encourage a higher consumption of magnesium for patients. The researchers have suggested the reduction in stroke risk may be due to dietary magnesium’s effects on several risk factors for stroke. Magnesium has been shown to reduce the following stroke risk factors:

1: Hypertension

2: Metabolic syndrome 3

3: Type-2 diabetes

In view of the prevalence of magnesium deficiency which has been observed in the overall population, no health practitioner should assume that his or her patients are have adequate magnesium levels. Dietary measures aimed at ensuring adequate magnesium intake should always be considered. Good foods which are loaded with magnesium include:

1: Deep green leafy vegetables

2: Whole grains

3: Nuts

4: Seeds

Oral magnesium supplements come in many forms. However, it has been discovered that magnesium oxide is the least absorbed form. If a patient experiences a laxative effect which is too strong with oral supplements, magnesium oils, creams, and gels or magnesium baths with Epsom salts, may be preferable.

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It has been my observation that public health initiatives aimed at encouraging people to be more responsible about vital health issues which can effect stroke risk have been meeting with success. In particular, more and more people are showing an active interest in getting more exercise and eating healthier foods. However, an awareness of the potential significant effects of magnesium for lowering stroke risk are not as widespread. There should be more aggressive initiatives to educate the public about the significant health benefits of magnesium.

However, please be advised that there can be side effects with too much magnesium, and so you should be careful about how much you consume. The University of Maryland Medical Center states because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, you should take dietary supplements only under the supervision of a good health care provider. Because magnesium is excreted by the kidneys, people who are suffering from heart or kidney disease should not take magnesium supplements except under careful supervision of a doctor.
Too much magnesium can cause serious health problems, including:

1: Nausea

2: Vomiting

3: Severely lowered blood pressure

4: Confusion

5: Slowed heart rate

6: Respiratory paralysis

7: Deficiencies of other minerals

8: Coma

9: Cardiac arrhythmias

10: Cardiac arrest

11: Death


I have received the following in an e-mail from Dr Dean. I consider Dr Dean a leading expert on magnesium and in natural health care in general, and so I think her comments are important:

Dr. Mandel quoted me in the above article. I want to comment because I’m not in agreement with the warning at the end about “side effects” of magnesium.

Magnesium has a failsafe if you take too much magnesium or too much too fast. You get diarrhea and flush out the excess magnesium. This is not a side effect, this is protection. The treatment is to stop this form of magnesium and take one that has less laxative effects, or take small doses several times a day. You can also read my blog, When Magnesium Makes Me Worse for more information.

I’ve written about the University of Maryland article called Possible Interactions with: Magnesium before. It seems that its intent is to make you fear magnesium.

The article warns that “If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use magnesium without first talking to your health care provider.” I’m sorry but doctors learned nothing about magnesium in medical school (I was there, so I know), so they are not the best people to give you an intelligent response.

In fact the opposite is true, if you take any of the medications listed, they will interfere with magnesium absorption or block magnesium activity in its 700-800 enzyme systems.

When you read the types of magnesium mentioned in the U of Maryland article, it’s mostly about antacids and laxatives and not about the use of magnesium as a therapeutic intervention for angina, blood pressure, and heart palpitations. Doctors don’t even consider magnesium for those conditions. Yet people who read this article will assume that they are talking about therapeutic magnesium.

The antibiotics listed are mostly fluoride molecules that block magnesium. They also say magnesium can cause side effects if taken with a calcium channel blocker. But magnesium is a natural calcium channel blocker so you may not need the drug if you use magnesium. They do say that diuretics can deplete magnesium and that “doctors may consider recommending magnesium supplements.” To me that sounds wishy washy. They should leave no doubt and say that doctors must prescribe magnesium supplements when prescribing diuretics.

About diabetic medication they warn against taking magnesium but don’t tell you that low magnesium is a sign of diabetes. They do say “Ultimately, magnesium may prove to allow for reduction in the dosage of those medications.” So, why don’t they say straight out – take magnesium and you may not have to take these drugs?

Please know that magnesium is a safe and necessary supplement and there are many resources available to understand how to use it wisely for your health. One is the non-profit
Nutritional Magnesium Association.

Dr. Carolyn Dean