For the love of your heart

healthy heartDiet, sufficient sleep, exercise and stress management all key factors in cardiovascular health

By Deb Dittner

Your heart — the muscular organ located mid-chest between the lungs, pumping blood through your blood vessels of the circulatory system, providing oxygen and nutrients to your body while also removing metabolic waste.

Heart disease — one of the most common causes of death and associated with a variety of lifestyle risk factors such as obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, little to no exercise, poorly controlled diabetes, and many more.

Heart health — affected by many things from the food you eat to proper sleep to moving your body to how you handle stress.

I usually talk a lot about whole nutrient-dense food, physical movement and the need for adequate sleep, as these lifestyle factors are so important.

Today, I’m going to touch on one subtopic of heart health and that is the need for a vital mineral called magnesium.

Deficiency of this important nutrient may be the cause of many symptoms and diseases, including but not limited to palpitations, obesity, diabetes, elevated blood pressure, angina, insomnia, muscle cramps, heart failure, irritability, sound sensitivity, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue, and more. This relaxation mineral can help improve your sleep, can help in constipation, can help offset elevated blood pressure during pregnancy, and can be used during a life-threatening irregular heartbeat.

Magnesium is found in all of your tissues but mainly in your bones, muscles and brain.

Magnesium is necessary for your cells to make energy, for chemical pumps in your body to work, to balance membranes, and to help relax muscles.

Sadly, most Americans do not consume enough of the necessary foods containing magnesium. And on another sour note, the ground soil that grows many of these food sources is also deficient in magnesium, creating even more of a problem.

The standard American diet consists of refined white flour, dairy products, and meats, all having no magnesium.

Magnesium levels are further decreased by too much salt, coffee, alcohol, the phosphoric acid in sodas, increased sweating, profound stress, certain medications such as diuretics and antibiotics, and some intestinal parasites.

Magnesium can also be difficult to absorb and easily lost from your body when other components are not up to par such as Vitamin D, Vitamin B6 and selenium.

Magnesium deficiency accounts for many issues of the body, including heart health, but this deficiency can be easily corrected. You need to first stop depleting your body of its stores by limiting coffee, soda, salt, sugar and alcohol.

Find a source of meditation or relaxation techniques to decrease stress.

Check with your health care provider or pharmacist if you are taking any medications causing magnesium loss.

You may have thought you’d get away from a discussion on whole nutrient-dense foods, but guess again.

There are many foods high in magnesium that you can add to your daily nutrition plan, including almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, dulce, millet, pecans, walnuts, tofu, brown rice, figs, dates, collard greens, avocado, shrimp, barley, garlic, beans and dandelion greens.

Supplementation is another means to obtain magnesium with a recommended daily allowance of 300 milligrams.

Before beginning any supplementation, be sure to discuss this with your health care provider, especially if you have kidney disease or severe heart disease. Tests using NT-proBNP test kit will determine abnormalities in patients with congestive heart failure.

• Deborah Dittner is a family nurse practitioner and health consultant. Her mission is to transform as many individuals as possible through nutrition and lifestyle changes. For more information, check out her website at or contact her at 518-596-8565.