The Mineral That Keeps Your Heart Healthy

You know you need to get your fiber and vitamin C fixes, but there’s one nutrient that may not be on your radar, even though it should be: magnesium. A daily dose of magnesium could lower your risk of coronary heart disease, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers analyzed information from 313,041 patients across the U.S. and Europe to determine the relationship between magnesium levels and heart health. They focused on the incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD), fatal coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular disease (CVD). CHD refers specifically to the build-up of plaque in your arteries, while CVD refers to a broader category of diseases that affect the heart and vessels, including those in the kidneys.

Turns out, patients who took in 200 mg of magnesium a day lowered their risk of CHD by 22 percent. The risk of CVD, however, didn’t appear to be impacted by increased magnesium intake.

Magnesium improves heart health by regulating the endothelium, a thin layer of cells that helps control the dilation of blood vessels. If the endothelium doesn’t receive enough magnesium, blood vessels constrict, which can cause blood flow to slow or stop. Unfortunately, the researchers found that most women don’t get enough magnesium. The women in the study consumed only 261 mg of magnesium per day on average, but the Recommended Daily Allowance is 320 mg.

So, how can you up your intake? Don’t reach for a pill to make up the difference. Nearly all of the magnesium that the study participants consumed came from food rather than supplements, so it’s unclear whether supplements would have the same effects, says lead study author Liana C. Del Gobbo, PhD, a researcher at the Harvard University School of Public Health in the Department of Epidemiology.

Instead, try incorporating more magnesium-rich foods into your diet. Whole grains, vegetables (particularly dark, leafy greens), nuts and seeds (especially almonds and pumpkin seeds), legumes, and dark chocolate are all high in the mineral.

Need some inspiration for how to work more of these ingredients into your meals? Try one (or more) of these recipes:

Spinach-Stuffed Tomato

Photo: John Kernick

Avocado with Black-Bean Salad

Photo: Mitch Mandel

Tailgate Party Nut Mix

Photo: Mitch Mandel

Wilted Spinach Salad with Steak and Pasta

Photo: Catherine Sears

Broccoli-Peanut Salad

Photo: Kana Okada

photo (top): iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from Women’s Health:
What Your Food Cravings Say About Your Health
Coronary Artery Disease
Prevent Cardiovascular Disease: Have a Healthy Heart

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Get This: Healthy Habits Can Boost Memory

Check out the list of links that should be on your radar today:

Eating right, exercising, and staying smoke-free can help improve your memory. [Medical Daily]

During the course of a recent six-year study, vegetarians were 12 percent less likely to die than meat eaters. Find delicious veggie recipes here. [WSJ]

Taking fish oil regularly may help protect your heart from the health drawbacks of stress, according to new research. [Prevention]

After a five-year break from print advertisements, Camel cigarettes bought space in at least 24 magazines this spring. [Ad Age]

In related news, a new study finds that smokers cost their employers almost $ 6,000 more per year than nonsmokers. [Vitals]

All of the buzz about Michael Douglas’ throat cancer is drawing much-needed attention to the link between unprotected oral sex, HPV, and throat cancer. Even more reason to get the HPV shot (if you haven’t already). [CBS]

Strange but true: An adult lollipop company in Boston has come out with a new breast milk-flavored option that isn’t actually made with human breast milk—it just tastes like it is. [The Frisky]

Movie theater owners want to shorten trailers—don’t they know those are the best part? [Bloomberg Businessweek]

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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Why It’s Crucial to Learn Healthy Habits

Some people make a beeline for potato chips or M&Ms when they feel stressed, but mental strain doesn’t have to trigger bad habits. In fact, you’re just as likely to cling to healthy habits when you’ve exhausted your self-control, according to five new studies soon to be published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

In the first study, researchers tracked MBA students in the weeks leading up to and during their exams, when all of their self-control was devoted to hitting the books. During exam weeks, students were most likely to stick to whatever their pre-existing habits were, whether the behaviors were healthy (like eating a wholesome breakfast) or not-so-healthy (like downing a syrup-soaked stack of French toast). Researchers confirmed the results in the four studies that followed: Each involved a willpower-depleting task that ultimately drove participants to cling to established habits, for better or for worse.

Why? Previous research suggests that each person has a finite supply of self-control at any given time, says study co-author David Neal, PhD, founding partner of Empirica Research. Once you hit your limit, it becomes incredibly difficult to make the conscious decision to try a new behavior that requires self-control. So instead, you just fall back on your default habits.

The good news: A tough day at work, holding back your annoyance during an encounter with your in-laws, or a beckoning ice cream truck don’t have to negatively impact your health. The bad news: You need to make sure you have rock-solid good-for-you habits in place before any of these situations strike.

And if you don’t (yet)? Pick one behavior to change at a time—ideally when other aspects of your life are pretty much in order and you’re not going through anything super-stressful. Then choose a day to start working on your new habit when you’re well-rested, says Neal. Link your new desired habit onto something you already do regularly—like flossing (the new habit) right before you brush your teeth (the old habit). Or, if your goal is to get stronger, always perform strength training exercises at the beginning of your regularly scheduled gym sessions. And if you want to eat more veggies, add them to the sandwich in the lunch you already pack daily.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from WH:
10 Eating Habits Fit People Swear By
Bad Habits That Are Actually Good for You
The Annoying Habit You Need to Break

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How to Stay Healthy Even on Crazy-Busy Days

Raise your hand if you wish there were more hours in a day. Hand up? You’re not alone. According to research presented last week at the Population Association of America’s annual meeting in New Orleans, people who work out and prepare their own food on the same day may be dedicating more time to one of those healthy habits—at the expense of the other habit.

Researchers used data from the nationally representative American Time Use Survey to come to that conclusion; they looked at information from more than 112,000 American adults who had been surveyed about their activities during a 24-hour period between 2003 and 2010.

The findings: Women spent an average of nine minutes on their workouts, compared to the average of 19 minutes that men spent on theirs. In addition, women spent an average of 44 minutes on food prep, while men spent less than 17 minutes making meals. That means that the average respondent spent less than an hour of their day on exercise and cooking combined.

By applying a statistical model, researchers found that, in general, the more time people spent preparing food on a given day, the less likely they were to spend as much time exercising. This association, while not causal, “suggests there could be a tradeoff between time spent preparing food and time spent exercising,” says lead study author Rachel Tumin, a doctoral student in epidemiology in The Ohio State University’s College of Public Health. Tumin points out that researchers only looked at one 24-hour period, so it’s possible that the respondents devoted more time to the activity they skimped on during the rest of the week.

Oftentimes, you have to cut back on certain activities to create time for others. But when it comes to your health, you shouldn’t have to make concessions. With a little strategizing, you can fit both fitness and healthy, home-cooked meals into your day.

Quick workouts you’ll love:

15-Minute Workout: Total-Body Toning


15-Minute Workout: Core Exercises


15-Minute Workout: Get Fit with Cables


15-Minute Arm Workout: Armed for Summer


 15-Minute Workout: Challenge Your Muscles


Healthy meals in 20 minutes or less:

Coconut-Lime Tilapia
Total time: 20 minutes

Photo: Zach DeSart


 Feta-Orzo Stuffed Tomatoes
Total time: 12 minutes

Photo: Craig Cutler


Seared Scallops with White Beans and Spinach
Total time: 18 minutes

Photo: Mitch Mandel


Tofu and Cabbage Salad
Total time: 10 minutes

Photo: Levi Brown


Baked Chicken with Mushrooms and Sweet Potato
Total time: 20 minutes

Photo: Levi Brown



photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from Women’s Health:
The Benefits of 15-Minute Workouts
4 Ways to Squeeze in That Workout
How to Find 15 Extra Minutes

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