Eat nuts, add spark to the heart

By having nuts at least 5 times a week, one can reduce the risk of heart attacks, says Dr Anjali Mukherjee.

india Updated: Aug 15, 2006 18:28 IST

Essential to life, magnesium is a strong antioxidant that keeps us young and healthy. Even small deficiencies could deprive you of a healthy life extension. The most prominent and consistent signs of magnesium deficiency are nausea, muscle weakness and irritability.

Unfortunately, magnesium’s absorbability decreases with age, so a magnesium-deficient diet only accelerates the aging process. In studies conducted, magnesium deprived animals have shown classical symptoms of premature aging.

That apart, perpetual low levels of magnesium also makes you susceptible to conditions such as clogged arteries, heart arrhythmias, heart attacks, high bl ood pressure and insulin resistance leading to diabetes.

Apart from regulating your heartbeat, the amount of magnesium in your body can help determine whether you live or die in case you have a heart attack.

In fact, you’re more likely to survive a heart attack if you haven’t been skimping on magnesium. Research indicates that people with a high magnesium intake are half as likely to have any type of cardiovascular incident such as non-fatal heart attacks, strokes, angina (chest pain) or heart surgery than those with a low magnesium intake.

Nuts were found to be the number one food among those most immune to heart disease. By having nuts at least 5 times a week, you reduce your risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular death by half.

Therefore start eating 8-10 almonds a day and stop feeling guilty about it. Magnesium prevents formation of blood clots that clog arteries leading to heart attacks. Further, magnesium inhibits the release of thromboxane, a substance that makes blood platelets more sticky and apt to clot formation.

Magnesium acts as an antioxidant against free radical damage to the mitochondra (energy factories of the cells).

Damaged mitochondra is unable to create energy and is the primary cause of declining functions and premature aging. Magnesium deficiency encourages free radical activity and in the long-term de pletes the body of Vitamin E, most of which is wasted in countering free radical attacks.

Diabetes is characterised by magnesium depletion. Studies find that most diabetics often have low levels of magnesium. Even if you don’t have diabetes, inadequate intake of magnesium could make you more vulnerable towards insulin resistance. In a study conducted on normal healthy individuals, all developed a 25 percent greater insulin resistance on a magnesium deficient diet. An irregular action of insulin could damage arteries and bring on diabetes.

Magnesium works together with calcium and vitamin D to prevent degeneration of the bones. Long term magnesium deficiency often triggers osteoporosis. To prevent high blood pressure as you age you need to take 400mg of magnesium a day. Magnesium tends to prevent constriction of blood vessels thus discouraging high blood pressure.

The correct ratio is to take at least half as much magnesium as calciumtoo much calcium and too little magnesium could cause blood clots, possibly leading to stroke and heart attacks. If you have low magnesium levels you are also likely to have low lev els of ac tive vitamin D which doubles your risk of bone fractures.

The RDA for magnesium is about 350 milligrams per day. Foods rich in magnesium include most nuts (1 cup of almond = 380mg of magnesium) seeds, legumes, pumpkin, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, oats, soybeans, leafy vegetables, figs, banana, whole wheat, wheat germ.

The bottomline is that one must not age prematurely simply because you don’t get enough magnesium. Include the above foods in your diet and stay young with magnesium.

(Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre)

First Published: Aug 15, 2006 18:28 IST