Most people associate blocked or clogged arteries with the heart, but an artery can be blocked anywhere in the body:
- Coronary Artery Disease occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to the heart. If left unchecked, it will result in a heart attack or stroke. Coronary Artery Disease is one of the leading causes of death in Canada and the United States.
- Carotid Artery Disease refers to the carotid arteries located along the sides of the neck. These arteries deliver rich nutrients to the brain. Blockages here can lead to a stroke.
- Peripheral Artery Disease is when the vessels that carry blood to the legs are restricted. Reduced blood flow to the legs and feet can result in pain and numbness, and at worst, a serious infection.
How Arteries Become Blocked
When plaque hardens and permanently narrows the artery walls in any of these three cardiovascular disease states, the condition is called Atherosclerosis. With stable plaque build-up in the heart, angina – or chest pain – may occur upon extreme exertion, but generally, there are no symptoms.
Should plaque build-up become unstable – like a bump on an artery wall – it can burst or rupture, permanently damaging the heart muscle and causing a heart attack or myocardial infarction.
There are many environmental risk factors for the development of atherosclerosis. These include smoking, diet, lack of exercise or infections. Genetic factors like diabetes, hyperlipemia, hypertension, obesity play a role, and men are more likely to develop this disease. However, elevated levels of serum cholesterol are enough to develop atherosclerosis, even in the absence of these other risk factors (1).
Magnesium for Preventing Atherosclerosis
Epidemiological research has indicated a direct relation between atherosclerosis and magnesium levels.
- Low plasma concentrations of magnesium are the cause of some inflammation states and atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease.
- Low plasma magnesium could potentiate the negative effects of several risk factors and induces dysfunction of the intern walls of the vessels.
- Hypomagnesemia is frequently associated with hypertension, diabetes, and ageing, which are risk factors for atherosclerosis (2).
The Relationship Between Calcium and Magnesium in Blocked Arteries
Calcium and magnesium act antagonistically – they have opposite effects. Excess levels of calcium act along with fatty acids and cholesterol cause the formation of plaques in veins and arteries. Magnesium helps prevent calcification and it plays an important role in diverting calcium to the bones, away from arteries (3).
Prevention and Treatment
Atherosclerosis is treatable when diagnosed, and though it is progressive, it is also preventable. A low-fat diet is highly recommended and unsaturated oils should be preferred. High intake of magnesium, smart food and drink choices, and exercise also help to reduce the risk. It is also critical to maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
1. Low magnesium and atherosclerosis: an evidence-based link. Maier, Jeanette A.M. 2003, Molecular Aspects of Medicine, Vol. 24, págs. 137-146. [ScienceDirect]
2. Associations of serum and dietary magnesium with cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, insulin, and carotid arterial wall thickness: the ARIC study. Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Ma J, Folsom AR, Melnick SL, Eckfeldt JH, Sharrett AR, Nabulsi AA, Hutchinson RG, Metcalf PA. 7, 1995, J Clin Epidemiol, Vol. 48, págs. 927-940. [PubMed]
3. The role of calcium and magnesium in the development of atherosclerosis. Experimental and clinical evidence. Orimo H, Ouchi Y. 1990, Ann N Y Acad Sci., Vol. 598. [PubMed]