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Got Magnesium? Why This Mineral Is Important for Older Adults

You may think you learned everything you need to know about magnesium in chemistry class, but you might be surprised to learn there’s more to know.

Magnesium is a mineral in food that has many benefits for older adults—if they are consuming the right amounts, and many don’t. In fact, according to the Cleveland Clinic, about half of U.S. adults don’t get enough. Consumer Reports states that more than 70% of people age 70 and older are magnesium deficient.

Harvard University reports that aging causes decreased absorption of magnesium and increased excretion in urine. In addition, older adults are more likely to take medications for chronic diseases that can lower magnesium absorption.

What Is Magnesium Good For?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), magnesium is important for regulating muscles and nerves, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure, and making protein, bone and DNA. Men need 400-420 milligrams and women need 310-320 milligrams each day, according to the NIH.

Low magnesium levels, according to Harvard, may be responsible for conditions such as:

  • Type 2 Diabetes – Magnesium helps regulate blood sugar and insulin activity.
  • Heart Disease – Some studies have indicated magnesium lowers the risk of heart disease.
  • Osteoporosis – The NIH reports that people with higher intakes of magnesium have a higher bone mineral density, which is important for reducing the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis.
  • Migraine Headaches – Some studies have shown that people with migraine headaches have lower levels of magnesium in their tissues and blood.

Although symptoms of magnesium deficiency are not always obvious, the NIH reports symptoms can include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and weakness. Extreme magnesium deficiency can cause numbness, tingling, muscle cramps, seizures, personality changes and an abnormal heart rhythm.

Which Foods Contain Magnesium?

A healthy diet is the best way to achieve an appropriate level of magnesium. Good sources include fresh fruit, leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, brown rice, whole wheat bread, milk and soymilk, and fortified processed foods such as cereal. It’s a good habit to read the labels of processed foods to see if the mineral has been added. The NIH offers a comprehensive list of foods containing magnesium.

How Much Magnesium Is Too Much?

Our kidneys do a good job of eliminating magnesium that we don’t need through our urine. However, toxicity is possible if you add magnesium supplements to your diet. Symptoms of toxicity include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Low blood pressure, abnormal heartbeat
  • Heart attack
  • Depression
  • Muscle weakness

According to the NIH, unless recommended by a health care provider, magnesium in dietary supplements and medications should not be consumed in amounts above the upper limit recommendations, which for women is 320 daily milligrams and for men is 420 daily milligrams.

Medications that may interfere with the absorption of this supplement include some taken to treat osteoporosis, as well as antibiotics, prescription medications for acid reflux and peptic ulcers, and zinc supplements.

It’s always a good day when we learn something new, especially when the new stuff makes us healthier. The next time you make your grocery list, add some colorful fresh fruit and vegetables, lots of nuts, and brown rice. And, don’t forget to read the nutrition label on your favorite cereal.

Right at Home’s professional in-home caregivers provide services that support both the physical and emotional health of senior clients. Our screened and trained caregivers understand the importance that everyday health reminders, including medication reminders, play in the health and well-being of seniors. Use our location finder to contact your local Right at Home and ask for a FREE in-home consultation.

If you’d like to receive information, advice and support for healthy aging, subscribe to our Caring Right at Home e-newsletter today.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Getting too much of a micronutrient, mineral or herb can cause health problems and interact with prescription medications. Before taking any dietary supplement or herb, always check with your doctor first.

Marsha Johns, blog author

Marsha Johns is a veteran health care marketer and award-winning writer. She strives to make medical topics understandable and relatable for all readers.

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