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Magnesium Deficiency and Childhood Strokes

Published on January 24, 2010


Magnesium deficiency can cause metabolic changes that may contribute to heart attacks and strokes. – National Institute of Health

J.B Handley, co-founder of Generation Rescue cuts to the chase when it comes to talking about the cause of autism. In an essay titled Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism, Pediatricians Do he says, “If a doctor sticks six vaccines into a child while the child is taking antibiotics for an ear infection and Tylenol for a cold, he’s not a doctor, he’s a criminal, and should be hauled into jail on the spot for assault and battery. If the child also happens to have eczema, long-term diarrhea, and has missed a milestone or two, perhaps the charge should be attempted murder.” These are appropriate words to describe what is happening in the world of pediatric medicine.

My 7 year-old son Jared collapsed in a playground holding his head. He could not walk. His speech was slurred. He had difficulty moving his left arm.  Doctors would later tell us our 7 year-old child had suffered a stroke. While certain pre-existing conditions can cause stroke in kids, my son did not have any of those ailments.  Doctors never could find a cause. As documented in a NY Times story, pediatric stroke is estimated to be the sixth leading cause of death in children. Meaning it affects thousands of infants and children every year.  And studies show incident rates are increasing.[1]
Jonathan Dienst

Older adults are not the only people in danger of suffering a stroke. Increasingly, children are also stricken, according to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. “Children and adolescents with stroke have remarkable differences in presentation (symptoms) compared with adults,” said E. Steve Roach, M.D., chair of the statement writing group and professor of pediatric neurology at the Ohio State University College of Medicine.

In a study of over 200 children who had suffered a stroke, nearly 80 per cent were found to have abnormalities in the brain’s arteries. These abnormalities were due to an inflammation, a narrowing or a tear in the artery walls and researchers believe they were caused by a variety of infections or diseases. Of course they did not even look at underlying magnesium deficiencies or to the disturbances that vaccines provoke in the vascular system. On both counts we could cry medical negligence bordering on the criminal.

Dr. Tavia Mathers and Dr. Renea Beckstrand from Brigham Young University published in the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners in 2009 that magnesium has been heralded as an ingredient to watch for 2010 and noted that magnesium is helpful for reduction of the risk of stroke.[2] Population-based information suggests that people with low magnesium in their diet are at greater risk for stroke. Clinical evidence suggests that magnesium is helpful in the treatment of a stroke.

“In newborns, the first symptoms of stroke are often seizures that involve only one arm or one leg. That symptom is so common that stroke is thought to account for about 10 percent of seizures in full-term newborns. Seizure is a much less common stroke symptom in adults,” Roach said. He emphasized that speedy diagnosis and treatment are still very important to minimize the risk for brain damage, disability and death. The problem is that vaccine promoting pediatricians are pretty much brain dead themselves when it comes to speedy diagnosis or appropriate treatment for neurological and vascular problems in children because they themselves are causing these problems.

The current RDA is considered to be sufficient but there is mounting evidence that this figure is much lower than optimal intake and that this low level of magnesium contributes to degenerative diseases and even strokes in children.

Experts now believe that a significant number of cerebral palsy cases may be due to strokes before or right after birth and that administration of magnesium sulfate given before birth to pregnant women, is preventing occurrances of cerebral palsy by a significant percent. [3]

In orthodox medicine adult strokes are said to be caused by high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a history of smoking, too much alcohol and obesity. Children’s strokes, on the other hand, are thought to be caused by birth defects, infections (e.g. meningitis, encephalitis), trauma, and blood disorders such as sickle cell disease. Nowhere do you see in the literature that severe magnesium deficiency could have anything to do with it even though it is well known that high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a history of smoking and too much alcohol and obesity are all correlated with magnesium deficiencies.

In my practice the use of magnesium in the early stages of a stroke has rendered the best results for my patients who have the greatest deficits.– Dr. Al Pinto

Children who have suffered a stroke may often have problems with speech and communication (aphasia and dysphagia) as well as visual problems such as trouble with visual perception. There are stroke-related disabilities that are unique to children such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation and epilepsy. 20 – 35% of infant stroke survivors will go on to have another stroke, and more than two-thirds of survivors will have cognitive deficits, physical disabilities that require therapy, or seizures inappropriately treated by medication or surgery when it is magnesium that should be applied as a rescue emergency medicine at the first hint of something wrong.

The risk of stroke in children is greatest in the first year of life, particularly in the first two months. It decreases after that. Data shows that stroke in the first month of life (neonatal stroke) occurs in about one of every 4,000 live births. Stroke also can occur before birth. What this is saying is that a mother’s magnesium status is her child’s magnesium status and the damage can take place right inside the womb.

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Primary prevention — stopping the first stroke from occurring — is possible if full magnesium status is paid attention to. Most doctors believe that initial strokes are difficult to prevent because the stroke is often the first sign of a problem but that is just a projection of ignorance about magnesium medicine. It is critical to recognize magnesium deficiencies and that is really not difficult to do if one simply looks at the dietary profile of a mother and child. But it is important to diagnose a stroke quickly when they do happen and start treating with magnesium right away because in this way we can reduce the likelihood of additional strokes as well as massive damage from the first stroke.


This chart basically shows the declining intake of magnesium and other minerals over the course of almost a century and this is telling in heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Magnesium has been consistently depleted in our soils. It has been further depleted in plants by the use of potassium and phosphorus laden fertilizers which alter the plant’s ability to uptake magnesium. This research concludes that it is magnesium status that controls cell membrane potential and through this means controls uptake and release of many hormones, nutrients and neurotransmitters. It is magnesium that controls the fate of potassium and calcium in the body. If magnesium is insufficient potassium and calcium will be lost in the urine and calcium will be deposited in the soft tissues (kidneys, arteries, joints, brain, etc.).

Magnesium protects the cell from aluminum, mercury, lead, cadmium, beryllium and nickel. Evidence is mounting that low levels of magnesium contribute to the heavy metal deposition in the brain that precedes Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s. It is probable that low total body magnesium contributes to heavy metal toxicity in children and is a participant in the etiology of learning disorders.

The most effective stroke treatments can only be given within the first few hours after a stroke has occurred. Once you are identified by ambulance or emergency personnel as someone who could be having a stroke, doctors need to know when the symptoms started because this is crucial in terms of effective window of treatment. With magnesium treatments, the trend toward a better functional outcome at 30 days in  adult patients is seen when treatments are started much earlier, within 0-2 hours from onset.

Low CSF Mg+2 levels in patients with acute ischemic stoke at admission predicted a higher 1-week mortality.[4]

In Los Angeles, California, we have what is called the FAST-MAG trial, which has the ambulance personal injecting magnesium quickly upon arrival of stroke victims. The Field Administration of Stroke Therapy (FAST-MAG Trials) is an NIH-NINDS-sponsored study whose goal is to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of field-initiated magnesium in improving the long-term functional outcome of patients with acute stroke.

The FAST-MAG trial addresses the crucial factor of delayed time to treatment which has hindered all past human clinical trials of neuroprotective drugs.[5] The FAST-MAG Pilot Trial demonstrated that field initiation of magnesium in acute stroke is feasible, safe, and potentially efficacious. The basic design is to inject magnesium within 1-2h of onset of stroke when the benefits of neuroprotective acute stroke therapies are likely to be greatest. By utilizing field delivery via the ambulance medical scientists are conducting the first neuroprotective study ever performed in the 0-2 hour window. Most stroke patients typically don’t receive treatment within these brief windows. Patients typically arrive at the hospital too late; and the consequences as such are great.

If you notice a problem with your child that suggests any kind of neurological compromise call 911 immediately or get to a hospital right away. Normally for adults the major tip offs are:

• Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body (the most common sign of stroke).
• Sudden confusion; trouble speaking or understanding.
• Sudden trouble seeing with one or both eyes.
• Sudden trouble walking; loss of balance or coordination.
• Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.

While you are waiting for the ambulance if one has magnesium oil in the house one can rub the magnesium all over the body or even quickly put the child in a bath loaded with magnesium chloride (Recommended are two to five pounds of magnesium flakes in a full bath for an adult with and added pound or two of sodium bicarbonate). This will not replace an injection of magnesium that could be offered by the ambulance operators (but is usually not, except in L.A.) but it opens up quick intervention that will help. One can also drink magnesium chloride. The point is the quicker one intervenes the greater the chance of a quicker and more complete recovery.

Researchers believe that magnesium slows the chemical process that can kill 12 million brain cells per minute during an untreated stroke, leading to long-term disability and death. So every moment is crucial to outcome. At least nine preclinical studies have examined the effect of systemic magnesium sulfate upon final infarct size in animal focal ischemic stroke models. Eight of the nine demonstrated substantial decreases in infarct size in treated animals, with reductions ranging from 26-61% in unconfounded studies.

Early studies using rats and mice showed that if given at high concentrations, magnesium can decrease the area of the brain that is permanently lost as a result of a stroke.– Dr. Jose Vega

‘Dr. Gregory Lip, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Birmingham, says that the majority of strokes are preventable, but under-diagnosis and poor care, as well as under-use of medicines and the side-effects of drugs means stroke creates “an unnecessary and heavy burden” on patients and health systems. Stroke is the most common cardiovascular problem after heart disease and kills an estimated 5.7 million people worldwide each year.

“How does magnesium protect the injured brain?” asks Dr. Vega. “The response to a lack of oxygen and nutrients (i.e., ischemia) by the brain includes a local release of chemicals which can damage brain cells, even beyond the damage that can be expected by ischemia alone. Perhaps the most harmful of these chemicals is glutamate, an amino acid used in very low amounts by brain cells to communicate with each other. During a stroke, however, the massive amount of glutamate released produces a flood of calcium inside brain cells which in turn causes them to die prematurely. Magnesium is thought to have the ability to prevent glutamate from causing this flood of calcium in the cells, thus protecting them from premature death.

Dr. Vega continues, “If magnesium infusion is found to be an effective approach for the treatment of acute stroke, it would be a much needed addition to the current armamentarium of medical therapies. Currently, less than 10% of stroke patients can benefit from tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) infusions partly because of the 3 hour limit after the onset of stroke symptoms in which it can be used, and partly because it is contraindicated in hemorrhagic strokes.”

An essential prerequisite for any pharmacological agent to offer significant brain neuronal protection during strokes is its ability to freely cross the blood–brain barrier. Several studies show that magnesium crosses the blood–brain barrier, in both animals and in humans.[6] Magnesium ions cross the intact blood-brain barrier efficaciously so that intravenous magnesium sulfate or chloride significantly raises cerebrospinal fluid and brain extracellular fluid magnesium to supraphysiologic levels.

Magnesium is neuroprotective in preclinical models of cerebral and spinal cord ischemia, excitotoxic injury, and head trauma. Magnesium is economical, widely available, simple to administer and has a long established safety and tolerability profile in myocardial infarction and eclampsia, as well as in pilot human focal stroke studies. Unlike most synthetic neuroprotective compounds, parenteral magnesium has no major adverse effects in doses that achieve serum levels in the range of preclinical neuroprotective concentrations.

The way to reduce the chances of developing dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease after a stroke is to prevent a second stroke by concentrating on the known stroke risk factors, a British study suggests. Magnesium plays a significant role in relaxing the blood vessels, an effect generally proven to help lower blood pressure. When blood vessels are constricted — not relaxed — the heart works harder to pump blood through the body, causing blood pressure to increase.

According to the current European treatment guidelines, no neuroprotective treatment is recommended for stroke patients.[7]

Dr. Jerry Nadler says, “Higher dietary intake of magnesium was among the factors associated with a reduced risk of stroke in men with hypertension. In a survey of almost 45,000 men ages 40 to 75, the overall risk of stroke was significantly lower for men in the highest quintile of intake of potassium, magnesium, and cereal fiber, but not of calcium, compared with men in the lowest quintile of intake. A similar relationship was reported this year by Meyer and colleagues, who observed that a diet rich in magnesium, grains, fruits, and vegetables reduced the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes in a group of almost 36,000 women. While no consistent effect of magnesium on blood pressure has been noted among persons with diabetes, a significant blood pressure reduction was noted in diabetic patients with hypertension after dietary sodium was replaced with potassium and magnesium.” [8]

Magnesium is an agent with actions on the NMDA receptor and a low incidence of side effects. It may reduce ischemic injury by increasing regional blood flow, antagonizing voltage-sensitive calcium channels, and blocking the NMDA receptor. Using various mechanisms, neuroprotective agents attempt to save ischemic neurons in the brain from irreversible injury. Studies in animals indicate a period of at least four hours after onset of complete ischemia in which many potentially viable neurons exist in the ischemic penumbra.

Intravenous magnesium sulfate administration during the hyper acute phase of stroke has been shown to be safe in a small, open-label pilot trial, in which more than 70% of patients were treated less than 2 hours from symptoms onset. Dramatic early recovery was achieved in 42% of patients, and good functional outcome (modified Rankin scale </=2) at 90 days post treatment was achieved by 69% of all patients and in 75% treated within 2 hours.[9]

[2] Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. December 2009, Volume 21, Issue 12, Pages: 651-657 “Oral magnesium supplementation in adults with coronary heart disease or coronary heart disease risk”

[6] Muir KW. Magnesium for neuroprotection in ischaemic stroke: rationale for use and evidence of effectiveness. CNS Drugs. 2001; 15: 921–930.

[7] Toni D, Chamorro A, Kaste M, Keddedy Lees, Wahlgren NG, Hacke W, for the EUSI Executive Committee and the EUSI Writing Committee. Acute Treatment of Ischemic Stroke. Cerebrovasc Dis. 2004;17(suppl 2):30-46.

[8] Diabetes and Magnesium;

[9] Saver JL, Kidwell C, Eckstein M, et al. Prehospital neuroprotective therapy for acute stroke: results of the field administration of stroke therapy — magnesium (FAST-MAG) pilot trial. Stroke. 2004;35:106-108.

Hi, I'm Dr. Mark Sircus, AC., OMD, DM (P), a doctor and writer of more than 23 books that have sold over 80,000 copies all over the world. My first major book was "Transdermal Magnesium Therapy" which afforded me the title of "Magnesium Man." It has been translated into five languages and has reduced the suffering of many people.

On my website there are hundreds if not a thousand free articles, so you can dive deep into my work. However if you need personalized help, you are more than welcome to schedule a consultation.

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