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Cardiovascular disease remains the #1 killer today—even though we can prevent it 90% of the time. The single factor that causes most heart problems is not your cholesterol level, but the growth of plaque in your arteries.

Heart function is dependent upon proper nutrient intake. The nutrients you eat provide the chemical compounds that help your heart and arteries function.

In my clinic, we measure both nutrient intake and the underlying cause for cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and strokes—which is arterial plaque growth. We are able to see if our patients have an increase, no change, or regression in their arterial plaque with their evaluations each year, and we can compare plaque growth with nutrient intake.

I have discovered which nutrient deficiencies predict if you are growing arterial plaque or not. And in my patients who have had more than a 10% decrease in arterial plaque over time, I can also see which nutrients predict plaque regression, too. We have published this information in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition and at meetings sponsored by the American Heart Association.

From research at my clinic, the most powerful nutrient that influences arterial plaque growth is a very common mineral, magnesium. This shouldn’t be a big surprise, as proper magnesium intake improves blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and prevents life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias, like sudden death. Adequate magnesium intake also decreases migraine headaches, constipation, muscle cramps, and insomnia.

Everyone should get at least 400 to 800 mg of magnesium every day. Sadly, only 20-30% of Americans reach this intake and 70-80% of people suffer as a consequence.

You can get magnesium from food, but most of my patients won’t meet the 400 mg minimum intake without a supplement. Let’s look at common sources of magnesium. Your challenge is to see if you can realistically get 400+ mg daily:

Nuts and Seeds
Roasted pumpkin seeds 1 oz 151
Quinoa (dry, uncooked) ¼ cup 89
Almonds 1 oz 78
Brazil nuts 1 oz 107
Cashews 1 oz 74
Beans and Legumes
Canned white beans ½ cup 67
Soybeans (edamame), cooked ½ cup 74
Black beans, cooked ½ cup 60
Peanuts 1 oz 50
Fish (cooked)
Halibut 4 oz 120
Chinook salmon 4 oz 138
Leafy Green Vegetables
Frozen spinach ½ cup 81
Swiss chard 1 cup 76
Artichoke hearts ½ cup 50
Fresh spinach 3.5  cups 80
Buckwheat flour ¼ cup 76
Oat bran, raw ¼ cup 55

So, on a typical day, add up and see if you can make 400 mg, not on your best day, but on an average day.

If you don’t reach 400 mg daily from food, then plan to take a magnesium supplement at bedtime. If you think you can get 250+ mg from food most days, then plan to add 150 mg from a supplement daily. My least favorite magnesium supplement is magnesium oxide, as it can irritate your intestinal tract and cause you distress. Better and far less irritating is magnesium citrate, which is helpful for constipation. My favorite source of magnesium comes from magnesium that is bound to protein, such as magnesium glycinate, magnesium malate, and magnesium chelate, as protein-bound magnesium does not upset your stomach, and it has double the absorption (so double the benefit) compared to other magnesium sources. If you are searching for a source of protein-bound magnesium check this link here.

Please make sure you have a plan to meet your magnesium needs daily.

In case you were wondering what other nutrients had an impact on arterial plaque growth, here they are. For more details, please read the information on them in my books, 30-Day Heart Tune-Up and Smart Fat.

  • Fiber (from vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts—I suggest 30 grams daily)
  • Vitamin D (I recommend 2,000 IU daily)
  • Vitamin K (I suggest at least 250 mcg of vitamin K1 daily, and up to 1000 mcg daily seems like an even better idea. Vitamin K2 is also more active than K1, and I recommend 200 mcg daily from K2 as well.)
  • Fish oil (I recommend 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA from clean, non-rancid sources daily)
  • Potassium (4000 mg daily, best to get this from eating beans, yogurt, fruits and vegetables, and seafood daily)

I wish you the best of health!

Steven Masley, MD, FAHA, FACN, FAAFP, CNS