The easy way to slash your heart risk

If the know-it-alls at the American Heart Association REALLY gave a hoot about your heart, they wouldn't be trying to cram cholesterol meds down your throat.

No, they'd be urging you to take magnesium instead -- because this critical mineral can do more for your ticker than statins or any other drug ever will, and that's true whether you're looking to avoid heart problems or already have them in spades.

Now, new research shows the biggest benefit goes to those with the highest risk -- and if you're a high-risk heart patient yourself, boosting your magnesium levels can slash your risk of death from heart disease, cancer and more.

The number to shoot for is 442 mg a day. Hit that target, and your risk of death from heart-related causes will plunge by 59 percent, according to the study of more than 7,200 men and women over the age of 55.

Statins can't touch that number. Heck, even the most optimistic estimates suggest statins may (emphasis on "may") cut that risk by about 20 percent in high-risk patients -- and for that benefit, you could suffer from memory loss, sex problems, muscle injury, diabetes and more.

Magnesium, on the other hand, comes with extra benefits -- not extra risks.

In the new study, for example, hitting that 442 mg target cut the risk of death from cancer by 37 percent and the risk of death from all causes by 34 percent.

The problem (you knew there would be one, right?) is that most people don't come close to getting 442 mg a day, with up to 80 percent of all Americans falling short in the magnesium department.

It's a potentially fatal mistake. Magnesium keeps your heart beating, and beating in rhythm -- which is why low magnesium alone can actually cause a heart attack.

Magnesium is also responsible for blood pressure control, blood sugar regulation, blocking platelet aggregation (aka stopping clots) and, oh, about 300 or so other functions in the body, from your brain right down to your bones.

The best sources of magnesium include spinach, chard and pumpkin seeds -- but if you really want to make sure you have what you need, take a supplement, too.