Magnesium and calcium are essential minerals that help your muscles, nerves, bones and heart function at their best. But not getting the right doses of the nutrients can lead to complications like a fluttering heartbeat. So, how exactly can calcium and magnesium cause heart palpitations?
Here's everything you need to know about how each nutrient contributes to heart-related symptoms, plus what to do about it.
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What Is Magnesium?
Magnesium is a mineral that helps with a number of your body's major functions. Per the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), these include:
- Muscle and nerve function
- Blood sugar regulation
- Blood pressure regulation
- Producing proteins
- Transporting calcium through your cells to help with nerve impulse conduction, muscle contractions and a regular heart rhythm
Because magnesium is such an integral part of your wellbeing, it's important to get enough of the nutrient. According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults should aim to eat the following amounts per day:
- People assigned female at birth (AFAB): 310 to 320 mg
- People assigned male at birth: 400 to 420 mg
You can get the mineral naturally from a variety of foods. Sources of magnesium include:
- Leafy greens like Swiss chard and spinach
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes and squash
It's also commonly manufactured in supplement and medicinal forms (including magnesium carbonate, magnesium oxide, magnesium chloride, magnesium lactate and magnesium citrate), which can be used to ease a variety of conditions, including upset stomach and heartburn, per the ODS.
Before you try a supplement, just remember the FDA doesn't require them to be proven safe or effective before they're sold, so there’s no guarantee that any supplement you take is safe, contains the ingredients it says it does or produces the effects it claims.
What Is Calcium?
Calcium is another essential mineral that helps with many bodily functions. According to the ODS, the nutrient supports:
- Bone and teeth structure
- Rigid, strong and flexible tissue, which facilitates good mobility
- Blood vessel and heart function
- Hormonal function
- Muscle and nerve function
- Blood clotting
To keep your body working well, it's crucial to get enough of the nutrient. Adults should thus stick to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans-recommended serving of 1,000 milligrams a day (or 1,200 milligrams if you're a person AFAB over the age of 51).
You can get the mineral in supplement form or by eating calcium-rich foods such as:
- Fish like sardines and salmon
- Dairy products like yogurt, milk and cheese
- Vegetables like kale, bok choy and broccoli rabe
- Orange juice
Calcium and magnesium function go hand in hand. But how does magnesium affect calcium levels, exactly?
Well, magnesium produces and releases a specific hormone that helps regulate the amount of calcium in your blood, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine. In other words, without sufficient magnesium, you may likewise experience low calcium levels, which can mess with your bone, muscle, nerve and heart health (more on that below).
Should You Take Magnesium and Calcium Together?
It's typically best to get your nutrients through natural food sources rather than relying on supplements, according to the Mayo Clinic.
But if you must take supplements of these minerals, it's best to eat them at different times of day, per the Mayo Clinic, because calcium can affect your body's ability to absorb magnesium.
Why Calcium and Magnesium Can Cause Heart Palpitations
It's important to get enough of each of these nutrients. But in certain situations, the minerals can cause side effects like heart palpitations, per the ODS.
Here are the reasons why that can happen:
1. You Took Too Much
Too much magnesium can cause a rapid heart rate and other cardiac issues like abnormal heart rhythms, per the ODS.
That said, this is typically only the case if you've taken a high dose of a laxative or antacid that contains the mineral (specifically, more than 5,000 milligrams a day is how much magnesium you can take for an irregular heartbeat to appear).
Why does magnesium make your heart race? The mineral plays a role in maintaining a normal heart rhythm, so any imbalances in your magnesium levels can likewise temporarily throw your heart function out of whack, per the ODS.
Besides magnesium and heart palpitations, other symptoms of an overdose of the mineral include:
- Facial flushing
- Urine retention
- Muscle weakness
- Trouble breathing
The same goes for calcium — if too much of the mineral builds up in your blood, it can lead to a condition called hypercalcemia, according to the Mayo Clinic. In severe cases, hypercalcemia can cause symptoms like — you guessed it — heart palpitations.
Per the Mayo Clinic, this condition can come about for a variety of reasons, including:
- You take high doses of a calcium supplement
- You're extremely dehydrated
- You aren't able to move for a long time
- Side effect of a medication
- As the result of an underlying condition like cancer, sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, hyperparathyroidism or genetic hypercalcemia
Other supplements that cause heart palpitations include folate, vitamin B12 and potassium.
2. You Have a Deficiency
On the other hand, too little magnesium can cause heart palpitations and other problems like irregular heart rhythms and heart spasms, according to the ODS.
A magnesium deficiency can also cause other symptoms, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Numbness or tingling
- Muscle contractions or cramps
Can low calcium cause heart palpitations, too? Well, not directly, but it may contribute to other heart issues that cause an irregular heartbeat.
For example, a severe lack of calcium — a condition called hypocalcemia — can lead to congestive heart failure, per the ODS. And according to the Mayo Clinic, one symptom of heart failure is a rapid or irregular heartbeat.
If you're showing symptoms of severe hypocalcemia like numbness or tingling in your hands and feet, muscle spasms, vision problems or seizures, per the ODS, seek medical care immediately.
3. You Have an Underlying Condition
If you have certain underlying illnesses, calcium and magnesium can cause heart palpitations.
For instance, older adults and people with gastrointestinal diseases, type 2 diabetes and alcohol use disorders are at higher risk for magnesium deficiencies, which can cause symptoms like heart palpitations, per the ODS. One of the most common causes of hypomagnesemia is the use of diuretics, and people in these groups are more likely to take these substances.
Similarly, people who take lithium to treat bipolar disorder have a greater risk for high levels of calcium in their blood, according to the ODS. In extreme cases, this can also lead to a fluttering heartbeat.
If you have an underlying condition, work with your doctor or dietitian to make sure you're getting the right amount of nutrients for your health needs.
How to Deal With Heart Palpitations From Magnesium or Calcium
In most cases, heart palpitations are harmless and will go away on their own, according to the Mayo Clinic.
But eating your recommended daily servings of calcium and magnesium can help prevent a mineral deficiency or overload (and any cardiac symptoms that come with it), per the ODS.
If you're considering taking a calcium or magnesium supplement, it's always safest to check with your doctor before getting started, according to the Mayo Clinic. They can help determine whether you should take it in the first place and if so, what dose and brand to try.
However, palpitations can sometimes indicate the presence of deeper heart problems like heartbeat irregularities. Per the Mayo Clinic, seek medical attention right away if your palpitations come with other symptoms like:
- Chest discomfort or pain
- Severe shortness of breath
- Severe dizziness
Should You Take Magnesium for Heart Palpitations?
If your fluttering heartbeat is the result of a mineral deficiency, then taking magnesium for palpitations may help ease the symptom, per the ODS. But again, talk to your doctor before starting any supplement regimen to make sure it's the right choice for you.
Magnesium may also be an effective way to prevent or treat heart arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat), though more research is needed to determine the best dose, form and duration of magnesium treatments for this condition, per a September 2016 review in the European Heart Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy.
- Office of Dietary Supplements: "Magnesium"
- Mayo Clinic: "Heart Palpitations"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans"
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: “FDA 101: Dietary Supplements”
- Office of Dietary Supplements: "Calcium"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Hypomagnesemia with secondary hypocalcemia"
- Mayo Clinic: "Supplements: Nutrition in a pill?"
- Mayo Clinic: "When should I take calcium supplements? Does the timing matter?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Heart failure"
- European Heart Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy: "Treating arrhythmias with adjunctive magnesium: identifying future research directions"
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Magnesium
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.