Stress intensifies release of catecholamines and corticosteroids that increase survival of normal animals when their lives are threatened. When magnesium (Mg) deficiency exists, stress paradoxically increases risk of cardiovascular damage including hypertension, cerebrovascular and coronary constriction and occlusion, arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death (SCD). In affluent societies, severe dietary Mg deficiency is uncommon, but dietary imbalances such as high intakes of fat and/or calcium (Ca) can intensify Mg inadequacy, especially under conditions of stress. Adrenergic stimulation of lipolysis can intensify its deficiency by complexing Mg with liberated fatty acids (FA), A low Mg/Ca ratio increases release of catecholamines, which lowers tissue (i.e. myocardial) Mg levels. It also favors excess release or formation of factors (derived both from FA metabolism and the endothelium), that are vasoconstrictive and platelet aggregating; a high Ca/Mg ratio also directly favors blood coagulation, which is also favored by excess fat and its mobilization during adrenergic lipolysis. Auto-oxidation of catecholamines yields free radicals, which explains the enhancement of the protective effect of Mg by anti-oxidant nutrients against cardiac damage caused by beta-catecholamines. Thus, stress, whether physical (i.e. exertion, heat, cold, trauma--accidental or surgical, burns), or emotional (i.e. pain, anxiety, excitement or depression) and dyspnea as in asthma increases need for Mg. Genetic differences in Mg utilization may account for differences in vulnerability to Mg deficiency and differences in body responses to stress.