Every year, tragedy strikes young athletes on the playing field or indoor court: A 20-year-old star basketball or football player collapses during a game and dies. Or a high school track runner dies after finishing second in a race. Sadly, 1 out of 50,000 young adults falls victim to sudden death. Although these deaths seem to come out of nowhere, such deaths are actually preventable by monitoring teen athletes' levels of magnesium.
The Culprit in Sudden Teen Deaths
Most of these cases have been linked to a thickened, enlarged heart called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or arrhythmia, a disturbed heart rhythm. In turn, these conditions are often caused by a deficiency in magnesium. In the research of cardiologist Carla Sueta at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, magnesium given to patients reduced the incidence of several types of ventricular arrhythmia by 53 to 76 percent.
Doctors and coaches understand that potassium is vital for a normal heartbeat, but equally important, a good deal of magnesium is lost when someone sweats.
Even apart from exercise, magnesium deficiencies are rampant. Dr. Mildred Seelig, a leading authority on the topic, suggests that 80-90 percent of the population has a deficiency in this essential nutrient. Most doctors never even check patients' magnesium levels, she says.
Common Symptoms of Deficiency
The most common symptoms of magnesium deficiency include back and neck pain, muscle spasms, anxiety, panic disorders, Raynaud's disease (a condition characterized by chronically cold hands), heart arrhythmia, fatigue, eye twitches, vertigo and migraines.
Testing for Deficiency
The two most accurate tests for determining someone's level of magnesium are the RBC Minerals test, also known as Elemental Analysis in Packed Erythrocytes, and the Urine Magnesium Loading Test.
Best Nutritional Sources of Magnesium
The best way of insuring enough magnesium is to eat a variety of whole foods, including whole grains, nuts, seeds and vegetables, preferably food grown on naturally composted soil. The green color of green vegetables is due to chlorophyll, which is a molecule that contains magnesium. Avoid refined processed foods, especially white sugar and white flour products, as most magnesium is removed from them. It's also possible to increase your level of magnesium by taking it in supplement form.
Coaches and Parents, Please Help
It's high time to spread the word about the importance of magnesium. Begin by telling other parents and coaches about the dangers of its depletion. Health information and monitoring can save lives.