Protective role of magnesium in cardiovascular diseases: a review

Mol Cell Biochem. 2002 Sep;238(1-2):163-79. doi: 10.1023/a:1019998702946.


A considerable number of experimental, epidemiological and clinical studies are now available which point to an important role of Mg2+ in the etiology of cardiovascular pathology. In human subjects, hypomagnesemia is often associated with an imbalance of electrolytes such as Na+, K+ and Ca2+. Abnormal dietary deficiency of Mg2+ as well as abnormalities in Mg2+ metabolism play important roles in different types of heart diseases such as ischemic heart disease, congestive heart failure, sudden cardiac death, atheroscelerosis, a number of cardiac arrhythmias and ventricular complications in diabetes mellitus. Mg2+ deficiency results in progressive vasoconstriction of the coronary vessels leading to a marked reduction in oxygen and nutrient delivery to the cardiac myocytes. Numerous experimental and clinical data have suggested that Mg2+ deficiency can induce elevation of intracellular Ca2+ concentrations, formation of oxygen radicals, proinflammatory agents and growth factors and changes in membrane perrmeability and transport processes in cardiac cells. The opposing effects of Mg2+ and Ca2+ on myocardial contractility may be due to the competition between Mg2+ and Ca2+ for the same binding sites on key myocardial contractile proteins such as troponin C, myosin and actin. Stimulants, for example, catecholamines can evoke marked Mg2+ efflux which appears to be associated with a concomitant increase in the force of contraction of the heart. It has been suggested that Mg2+ efflux may be linked to the Ca2+ signalling pathway. Depletion of Mg2+ by alcohol in cardiac cells causes an increase in intracellular Ca2+, leading to coronary artery vasospasm, arrhythmias, ischemic damage and cardiac failure. Hypomagnesemia is commonly associated with hypokalemia and occurs in patients with hypertension or myocardial infarction as well as in chronic alcoholism. The inability of the senescent myocardium to respond to ischemic stress could be due to several reasons. Mg2+ supplemented K+ cardioplegia modulates Ca2+ accumulation and is directly involved in the mechanisms leading to enhanced post ischemic functional recovery in the aged myocardium following ischemia. While many of these mechanisms remain controversial and in some cases speculative, the beneficial effects related to consequences of Mg2+ supplementation are apparent. Further research are needed for the incorporation of these findings toward the development of novel myocardial protective role of Mg2+ to reduce morbidity and mortality of patients suffering from a variety of cardiac diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / genetics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Ion Channel Gating
  • Magnesium / metabolism*
  • Magnesium Deficiency
  • Oxidants / metabolism
  • Protective Agents / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Oxidants
  • Protective Agents
  • Magnesium