Wouldn’t you know it but a few days after I posted my update about my battle with PVCs and PACs, I went almost three weeks with nothing but solid NSR. It was awesome! I forgot how nice it was to live a “normal” life where you didn’t have to think or worry about your heart.
But just as quickly as they left, they came roaring back again and have been bugging me a lot in the past week. In fact, the past seven days have been dreadful. Last night they were so bad I swore I was in afib. I took about a dozen AliveCor readings and it was just frequent PVCs and PACs. When I have my bad “outbreaks” like last night, I’m averaging about 8 PVCs and/or PACs per minute.
With all these palpitations I figured it was time to have my magnesium levels tested again. I made an appointment with my naturopathic doctor to have the EXA test done again and scheduled a RBC magnesium blood test to be taken on the same day at an independent testing lab. The last time I had these tests done was over a year ago and my magnesium levels then were really low.
My Magnesium EXA Test Results (and Costs) in 2016
For those of you unfamiliar with the EXA test, it’s considered the most accurate method for testing your magnesium levels. It measures the magnesium at the cellular level where the majority of your magnesium is found.
It’s not a cheap test to have done as you’ll discovery shortly and most insurance plans don’t cover it. It can also be hard to find a doctor that actually administers the test. If you can get past these two hurdles, however, it’s worth having it done at least once if you’re an afibber or someone that suffers from constant PVCs or PACs as magnesium deficiencies can be a contributing factor to arrhythmias.
The EXA test normal reference range for magnesium levels is 34 – 42.
When I had the EXA test done on March 24, 2015 my magnesium levels were a measly 31 – well below the bottom end of the normal range.
This year when I had the test done on May 24, 2016 my magnesium levels were 34.4! According to the test I’m finally in the normal reference range but at the very bottom of it. And while my magnesium levels were up from last year, my other levels such as potassium, calcium, etc. were all down. Here is a look at my actual EXA test results:
(click on the images to see the full-size reports)
Last year when I had my EXA test done it cost $715.25, $684 of it was for the test itself. The remaining amount was for the doctor fees to administer the test. It was all out-of-pocket because my insurance wouldn’t cover it.
This year it was much cheaper and I have no idea why. It was “only” $409.75, with $295 of it for the test itself. The test itself was $389 cheaper this year! $295 still isn’t cheap but that’s a huge price difference from $684!
If you have the test done this year and are quoted anything higher than $295, you might want to call EXA test directly and see if you can get it cheaper. Don’t bother emailing them because they won’t reply. I tried sending them an email to get a price but I never heard back from them.
MY RBC Test Results (and Costs) in 2016
After I left my doctor’s office to have the EXA test done, I drove a couple miles to a local independent testing lab to have a RBC magnesium blood test done.
The RBC test measures the magnesium in your red blood cells. It’s considered to be far more accurate than a standard serum magnesium blood test (which are completely worthless by the way) but not nearly as accurate as the EXA test. The beauty of the RBC test is that it’s a fraction of the cost of the EXA test.
The RBC normal reference range for magnesium levels is 4.2 – 6.8 mg/dL.
When I had the RBC magnesium test done last year on April 29, 2015 my magnesium was at 5.9 mg/dL. I was right in the middle of the normal range.
This year when I had the test done on May 24, 2016 my magnesium was at 5.1 mg/dL. It was down from last year! Here are my actual test results:
(click on the image to see the full-size report)
The costs of the RBC blood test were the same this year as last year – $49. Like last year, I used RequestATest.com. It’s a really slick service. You pay for the test online and then have your blood drawn at a local testing lab that is part of their network. You can see if they have a testing lab in your area here.
So am I Deficient in Magnesium or Not?
I wish I was a smarter guy about all this stuff because these latest test results have me scratching my head. When one is high, the other is lower and vice versa. You would think they would show the same relative results. Meaning, if one showed high levels the other one would too and vice versa. There seems to be an inverse relationship between the EXA test results and the RBC magnesium test results and I have no idea why.
Last year my magnesium levels for the EXA test was 31, indicating I was severely deficient. At roughly the same time last year my RBC test showed my magnesium levels to be at 5.9.
According to Dr. Carolyn Dean, a well-known doctor and expert on magnesium, you want to aim for a minimum level of 6.0 mg/dL on the RBC test. At 5.9, I was just below that level so according to the RBC I was only slightly deficient – yet the EXA test indicated I was well below normal and severely deficient.
This year my EXA test results showed a magnesium level of 34.4, which was higher than last year and at the very bottom of the normal range. My RBC results, however, showed a level of 5.1 – lower than last year.
How can two tests have opposite results? If I go by the EXA results, I’m doing well. If I go by the RBC results, I’m not doing as well. I’m more deficient in magnesium today than I was a year ago according to that test!
Bottom line, I have no clue if I’m deficient or not…lol.
My Magnesium Supplementation for the Past 12 Months
Assuming the EXA test is accurate and I am indeed on the bottom end of the normal reference range, I made some nice gains in the past year. I went from 31 to 34.4 so the question is, how did I do it?
I have been taking anywhere from 600 – 1,000 mg of magnesium every day for the past 12 months. I would take about 600 mg of ReMag per day and roughly 400 mg of Ease per day. I have no idea which one provided the boost but I’m sure both played a role.
What I think is the most interesting, however, is that despite heavy dosing of magnesium consistently day after day for 12 straight months, I still only managed to boost my levels a few points. This could be a unique challenge to me or it could be the norm. It’s possible if someone else followed this protocol their levels would jump up dramatically more than mine.
What’s awesome about these two products is that I can tolerate these high doses with ease (no pun intended). I have had zero issues with loose stools or diarrhea which I would have if I took large doses of any other kind of magnesium. I continue to take these two products at these high doses today.
At the urging of my good friend and afib mentor, Shannon Dickson, the editor of afibbers.org, I asked my naturopathic doctor about IV magnesium treatments. Shannon strongly believes that I’m likely deficient in magnesium and that I would probably benefit from IV treatments. My naturopathic doctor concurs. Unfortunately, he isn’t allowed to provide these treatments in the state of Minnesota so he referred me to another doctor in the metro area here that can administer them.
I reached out to this doctor earlier this week via email to get more information. Based on the info I gave him he also believes I could benefit from IV magnesium treatments. He charges $79 for an initial consult and $125 per IV treatment.
If you go down the IV treatment route, they typically do one treatment per week until your magnesium levels are optimal. I suppose the amount of time it takes to reach that level varies from person-to-person but I can’t imagine it would be more than 4-6 weeks. I’m looking at $500 – $750 for a 4-6 week treatment plan if I decide to do it.
I meet with him for an initial consult this Tuesday and if I’m comfortable with him and what he has to say, and I get good vibes about the clinic, I’ll move forward with my first treatment that same day. My hope is that these treatments will be effective in dramatically increasing my magnesium levels and as a result will tame my PVCs and PACs. We shall see.
And of course as always, I will be sure to document my entire experience. It should be fun!