Atrial fibrillation is characterized by an irregular and unusually fast heart rate. A normal resting heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute; someone with atrial fibrillation often has a heart rate of 140 or more beats per minute. Atrial fibrillation itself is not usually life threatening, but its effects, which include dizziness and shortness of breath, are unpleasant. It might also increase the risk of having a heart attack. It is commonly treated with medicines that regulate the heart rate and restore normal heart rhythm. Magnesium might also play a role in the prevention and treatment of atrial fibrillation, although evidence to prove this is limited. Get advice from your doctor or cardiologist before taking supplemental magnesium.
Properties and Potential Benefits
Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in the body. It plays an important role in a number of physiologic processes, for example, it helps support immune function, regulates blood pressure and helps the body metabolize protein. It also helps maintain a normal heart rhythm. The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements notes that evidence suggests that low levels of magnesium in the body increase the risk of abnormal heart rhythms, which in turn increases the risk of having a heart attack.
Clinical studies evaluating the effects of oral magnesium supplements on atrial fibrillation are lacking. However, the results of a study published in the August 2006 issue of "The Japanese Journal of Thoracic Surgery" showed that intravenous administration of magnesium helped prevent atrial fibrillation after cardiac surgery. An analysis of data from clinical trial findings, published in the June 2007 issue of the "American Journal of Cardiology," concludes that intravenous magnesium administration is an effective treatment for atrial fibrillation.
Sources and Administration
A variety of foods contain magnesium in varying amounts. Examples include soybeans, yogurt, nuts, brown rice, potatoes, spinach and lentils. It is also available as a dietary supplement in tablets and capsules. Guidance regarding a suitable dose to help treat atrial fibrillation is lacking, but your cardiologist may be able to advise you. It may be necessary to administer magnesium intravenously to treat atrial fibrillation -- do not attempt to do this without medical supervision.
The U.K. National Health Service's website, NHS Choices, notes that you can help reduce your likelihood of experiencing an episode of atrial fibrillation by avoiding illegal drugs, not smoking and reducing your intake of alcohol and caffeine. Losing weight if you are overweight and leading a healthy lifestyle will also help reduce the incidence of atrial fibrillation.
- NHS Choices: Atrial Fibrillation
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Magnesium
- "The Japanese Journal of Thoracic Surgery"; Prophylactic Effect of Magnesium Infusion Against Postoperative Atrial Fibrillation; Y. Naito, et al.; August 2006
- "American Journal of Cardiology"; Meta-analysis of Magnesium Therapy for the Acute Management of Rapid Atrial Fibrillation; O. Onalan, et al.; June 2007