A number of my patients have trouble with irregular heart beats. It can be very common and is people call this many different things. Some feel they are having “skipped beats” or a “flip-flop” of the heart. Many will call these palpitations and it is best described as a feeling that the heart has jumped or beaten out of sequence.
While a lot of people have skipped beats many will not feel them and only know because their doctor told of it. For the most part the irregular beats are benign and are the effect of an early beat from the heart’s ventricle or atrium. If it is from the ventricle we call this a Premature Ventricular Contraction (PVC). As you might expect, beats that originate in the atrium are Premature Atrial Contractions (PAC).
There can be a number of causes and there are many much more serious problems with heart rhythms. It has been shown that magnesium may play a role in premature beats such as PACs and PVCs. In an effort to see if a diet low in magnesium might contribute to an increase in early heart beats researchers at the USDA Agricultural Research Service studied 22 post-menopausal women by asking them to eat a diet that was designed to be low in magnesium (Am J Clin Nutr 2002;75:550-4).
The women were divided into two groups. One group was fed a diet that contained less than half of the Recommended Daily Allowance of magnesium (this is 320 mg for women and 400 mg for men). The other group consumed a diet that was supplemented with magnesium. Each group ate their diet for 81 days and then they switched to the other diet (researchers call this a “crossover” design).
Blood tests were taken to measure magnesium and heart rhythms recorded using a device that the participants wore for up to 21 hours at a time. While their blood tests didn’t show a decrease in magnesium levels when the women were on the low magnesium diet they had many more early heart beats documented by the monitor.
The researchers suggested that those who may not get enough magnesium in their diets, or those taking diuretics, may want to supplement with magnesium. There is a feeling that those in areas with a supply of soft water may also experience a decrease in their intake of magnesium.
What this means for you: If you are having skipped beats, palpitations or any type of heart racing, check with your doctor. It is not likely serious. You and your physician may want to discuss supplements, but the best way to get magnesium in your diet is one that it rich in legumes, nuts, fruits, veggies and fish. Here’s a list of the amounts of magnesium in some foods.
|FOOD||Serving size||Milligrams (mg)|
|Halibut, cooked||3 ounces||90|
|Almonds, dry roasted||1 ounce||80|
|Cashews, dry roasted||1 ounce||75|
|Nuts, mixed, dry roasted||1 ounce||65|
|CEREALS & STARCHES|
|Bran Flakes||3/4 cup||40|
|Cereal, shredded wheat||2 rectangular biscuits||55|
|Oatmeal, instant, fortified, prepared w/ water,||1 cup||55|
|Bread, whole wheat, commercially prepared,||1 slice||25|
|Potato, baked w/ skin||1 medium||50|
|Rice, brown, long-grained, cooked||1/2 cup||40|
|Soybeans, mature, cooked,||1/2 cup||75|
|Peanuts, dry roasted||1 ounce||50|
|Peanut butter, smooth||2 Tablespoons||50|
|Blackeyed Peas, cooked||1/2 cup||45|
|Lentils, mature seeds, cooked||1/2 cup||35|
|Kidney Beans, canned||1/2 cup||35|
|Pinto Beans, cooked||1/2 cup||35|
|Yogurt, plain, skim milk||8 fluid ounces||45|
|Wheat Germ||2 Tablespoons||35|
|Milk, reduced fat (2%) or fat free||1 cup||27|
|Whole Milk||1 cup||24|
|Chocolate Pudding||4 ounce ready-to-eat portion||24|
|FRUIT AND VEGETABLES|
|Banana, raw||1 medium||30|
|Dried Figs||4 figs||44|
|Raisins, seedless||1/4 cup packed||25|
|Avocado, California||1/2 cup||35|
|Yellow Squash||1 cup||43|
|Spinach, frozen, cooked||1/2 cup||75|