The heart is an organ in your body that is pumping around five liters of blood per minute! Imagine all the nutrients and electrolytes needed to keep this organ working. Electrolytes are more important for the heart than we give them credit for.
As you can see, the heart’s work ethic is no joke. If your goal is to improve your cardiovascular health by just eating the right nutrients, then potassium and magnesium are worth the discussion. Well, what exactly do these electrolytes do and why should you care about them? To put it in simple terms, potassium and magnesium make the heart beat with rhythm and ease. They stop the heart from beating practically and allow it to not beat too slowly either.
The heart plays a major role in the body. By looking at the statistics, we can see that the leading cause of death is chronic heart disease among the American population. Chronic heart disease is usually preventable with the right lifestyle changes. Eating fast food every day and then switching to a Mediterranean diet is a heart healthy lifestyle change. Why is this the case? Well, the way we are eating is causing our arteries in the heart to narrow and build up with plaque. By focusing on potassium and magnesium, it will lead you to choose food options that are beneficial to your hard-working heart.
The functions that potassium plays a role in are nerve conduction and aiding in muscular contraction. In this case, potassium helps with the contraction of the heart. The heart needs to pump out blood so the rest of the cells in the body can get the oxygen they need to function properly. Another important function of potassium is that it keeps your heart beating at a normal pace.
Potassium can be found in foods such as:
- orange juice
If you’re in the world of medicine, you’ll know that there are prescribed medications that have potassium in them and their sole purpose is to treat heat-related illnesses. For example, people who have hypokalemia (potassium deficiency) are at risk of suffering from cardiac arrhythmias. From that brief amount of information alone, we know that getting potassium into our eating regime is very important. To dive deeper into the benefits of potassium associated with heart health, check out this evidence-based article.
Now on to:
Similar to potassium, magnesium also helps with the contraction of the heart. Magnesium is a mineral that allows the heart to contract, but it also allows the cells found in the heart to relax. It does this by blocking calcium through releasing a hormone called calcitonin. Without magnesium, the heart rhythm will be unsynchronized. This will cause something known as atrial fibrillation, the most common heart-related disorder out there.
Researchers at Cardiology Research and Practice discovered that a low quantity of magnesium in the blood may raise the chance of developing cardiovascular disease. A low magnesium level was also linked to atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation develops when the heart’s electrical mechanism malfunctions, causing the upper chambers to tremble. As with all foods, you should get all of your nutrients from high-quality food sources.
You may get magnesium from supplements and fortified breakfast cereals, but getting the nutrients from the source is the best way. Magnesium can be found in foods such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, legumes, seafood, and whole grains. Chronically low levels can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2-diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Things to keep in mind
Too much of a good thing can also be bad for you. In this case, consuming too much magnesium and potassium can wreak havoc on your body and most importantly, your heart. Consuming too much potassium (Hyperkalemia) can cause heart arrest. If the normal ranges of potassium can get your heartbeat at the right pace, imagine what too much of it can do.
The same concept goes for magnesium (hypermagnesemia) too much of it can cause your heart rate to go down (Bradycardia) which leads to less blood being pumped to the rest of the body. This will lead you to feel weak and nauseous along with the possibility of a heart attack.
For a healthy adult, it’s unlikely to get excess amounts of potassium and magnesium alone from your diets unless you’re eating bananas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you suffer from kidney disease, you may want to consult with your primary care provider before adding more of these minerals to your diet. These two minerals play an important role in your heart functionality day in and day out. So, for healthy adults who want to optimize their heart health, you can’t go wrong with making sure your potassium and magnesium intake is within beneficial ranges.
- Severino, P., Netti, L., Mariani, M. V., Maraone, A., D’Amato, A., Scarpati, R., Infusino, F., Pucci, M., Lavalle, C., Maestrini, V., Mancone, M., & Fedele, F. (2019, May 2). Prevention of cardiovascular disease: Screening for magnesium deficiency. Cardiology Research and Practice. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/crp/2019/4874921/.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2017, October 31). How too little potassium may contribute to cardiovascular disease. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/how-too-little-potassium-may-contribute-cardiovascular-disease.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, October 19). FASTSTATS – leading causes of death. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm.