Can Low Magnesium Kill You? – What to Do About a Deficiency

Magnesium is one of the lesser-discussed essential minerals despite being critical for our well-being.

In fact, most people don’t get enough of it.

So, should we be paying more attention to it? 

After all, what happens when our magnesium levels dip too low? Can we die?

Let’s dive into the topic and explore the potential dangers of low magnesium levels and answer the question – can low magnesium kill you?

Can a Severe Magnesium Deficiency Kill You?

The short answer is yes,  severe magnesium deficiency can kill you. But before you panic, it’s important to clarify that severe magnesium deficiency is relatively rare.

Also, pretty much anything can kill you. 

On a more positive note, our bodies do a pretty great job of maintaining optimal magnesium levels. [1]

However, severe deficiency can occur in certain cases, such as malnutrition, chronic alcoholism, or conditions that affect the absorption of nutrients

In these instances, life-threatening complications like seizures, irregular heartbeat, and even heart attack can arise due to the critical role magnesium plays in our body’s functions. [2]

Is Low Magnesium an Emergency?

Not all cases of low magnesium are emergencies, but it’s crucial to recognize when urgent medical attention is necessary. 

Mild to moderate magnesium deficiencies may not warrant immediate intervention and according to evidence, up to 75% of people are magnesium deficient to a degree. So, one could dismiss it as a “not a big deal”.

That said, a severe deficiency, as discussed earlier, could pose significant risks. 

Either way, it’s VITAL to consult a healthcare professional if you suspect your magnesium levels are (dangerously) low, especially if you’re experiencing symptoms like muscle weakness, cramps, fatigue, or an irregular heartbeat. [3]

What Can Happen if Your Magnesium Level is Too Low?

Low magnesium levels can lead to a range of issues, depending on the severity of the deficiency. Here are some potential complications:

  1. Muscle cramps and weakness: Magnesium plays a vital role in muscle function. A deficiency can cause muscle weakness, cramps, or spasms. This potentially happens after the muscle nerves are overly stimulated by calcium.[4]
  2. Irregular heartbeat: Magnesium is crucial for maintaining a healthy heart rhythm. Low levels can lead to arrhythmias or even heart attacks in severe cases.
  3. Seizures: A deficiency in magnesium can increase the risk of seizures due to its involvement in nerve function and neurotransmission. [5]
  4. Osteoporosis: Long-term magnesium deficiency can contribute to poor bone health. While bone health isn’t directly influenced by hypomagnesemia, low levels of magnesium translate to lower levels of calcium, which could lead to osteoporosis.
  5. Mental health issues: In addition to physical health, low magnesium levels have been linked to depression, anxiety, and irritability. However, further evidence is needed to assess these claims.
  6. Hypertension: A deficiency in magnesium seems to contribute to high blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. However, once again, we need more research to understand this fully.

Remember, these complications generally occur in cases of severe deficiency, so don’t panic if you’re experiencing milder symptoms – talk to a professional.

Also, all of these can be symptoms of other conditions, so don’t try and treat your arrhythmia with magnesium supplements. Go see a doctor!

What are Signs That You Have a Magnesium Deficiency?

Mild magnesium deficiency symptoms can be subtle and easily overlooked. They’re also similar to the ones mentioned above.

That said, some common signs to look out for include:

  • Muscle cramps or spasms
  • Shaking
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hyperexcitability
  • Insomnia or sleepiness

Once again, If you’re experiencing these symptoms and suspect magnesium deficiency – don’t just pop by your local pharmacy. 

Consult your healthcare provider for proper evaluation and guidance first!

At What Level Should Low Magnesium Be Treated?

The normal range of magnesium levels is typically between 1.7 to 2.2 mg/dL. 

If your magnesium levels fall below this range, it may be considered low. 

Generally speaking, anything under 1.25 mg/dL should be treated.

However, the severity of the deficiency will determine the appropriate course of action. 

Considering there are plenty of underlying conditions that could result in low magnesium levels, it is highly recommended you consult with a doctor before you do anything.

Simply supplementing with magnesium won’t amount to much if there’s an underlying condition preventing you from utilizing this mineral.

What are Some Ways to Raise Your Magnesium Levels?

You can easily boost your magnesium levels by simply changing a few things in your lifestyle. Here are some strategies to get you going:

  1. Increase magnesium-rich foods in your diet: Foods like spinach, pumpkin seeds, almonds, peanuts, cashews, avocados, and certain types of fish like salmon or halibut are excellent sources of magnesium. It’s also important to mention that the bioavailability of magnesium from food sources is much higher compared to supplements.
  2. Magnesium supplements: Over-the-counter magnesium supplements are available in various forms, such as magnesium oxide, magnesium citrate, and magnesium glycinate, with the latter being the most bioavailable and absorbable form.

That’s about it.

Apart from that, getting enough sleep and taking care of your body should help optimize the processes in your body, which could have a fairly significant role in mineral utilization in general.

Conclusion

Low magnesium levels, particularly in severe cases, can pose serious health risks which could ultimately kill you. 

But that’s probably not something you should lose sleep about, as it is not that common.

What you should do is recognize the symptoms of magnesium deficiency early on and seek medical advice if you suspect a problem. 

Boosting magnesium levels through diet, supplements, or other means can help you maintain optimal health, but it should by no means be your go-to problem-solving method.

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