Cut your heart risk in half at dinnertime

I recently had a patient who had been to doctor after doctor for her chronic migraines and fatigue and gotten nowhere.

The first thing I did was order up a red blood cell magnesium test. Sure enough, she was deficient -- and once we boosted her levels, she was back to feeling like herself again.

Amazingly, none of her other doctors had bothered with the test despite the fact that low levels of this essential mineral have strong links to both conditions -- and headache and fatigue are only the beginning.

Magnesium is essential for heart health, and the latest research confirms that people with the lowest levels have a dramatically higher risk of death by heart disease.

Researchers tracked nearly 60,000 healthy Japanese people between the ages of 40 and 79 for up to 15 years, and found that those with the highest magnesium levels had half the risk of death from heart disease.

Other studies have found similar results, including one that found women with high dietary intake of magnesium have a 34 percent lower risk of sudden cardiac death -- and women with high plasma levels of this mineral have a 77 percent lower risk.

This is not just a statistical coincidence. Magnesium literally helps keep your heart beating. It can also lower blood pressure, slash levels of inflammation, and improve circulation.

Like I said, it's essential for heart health -- and if that's not enough, it can also help prevent stroke, cancer, and diabetes, strengthen bone and muscle, and boost your immune system.

That's still not even close to all it can do: As my patient learned, it can also fight fatigue and prevent headaches -- not to mention everything from lifting your mood to protecting your hearing.

In fact, magnesium plays a critical role in more than 300 functions in the body, and we're learning of new ones all the time.

The best sources of magnesium are the foods too many people no longer eat -- like fresh greens, especially spinach. You'll also find it in nuts, grains, and beans.

But there's one place you won't find much at all, and that's in your multivitamin. Magnesium just takes up too much room in the capsule.

If you're not getting enough from diet alone, don't rely on your multi. Add a magnesium supplement to your regimen -- ideally magnesium glycinate, a form that's most easily used by your body.