Before I dive into the meat of this post, I want to apologize for being so quiet lately. My last “personal” post was in March when I celebrated my two-year anniversary of being afib-free. The reason for my absence is I’ve been doing awesome.
I haven’t had a single episode of afib since my March 2015 ablation. Aside from my occasional battles with PVCs and PACs, my heart has been steady eddy. Even my PVCs and PACs have reduced in their frequency and severity. In short, life has been great!
Rest assured I am still very much engaged with this blog. I approve and reply to comments almost on a daily basis and I answer every email I get that comes across my inbox – and there a lot of them. Thank you for your emails, by the way. It brings me great pleasure to help people out so keep them coming.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know I do an EXA test and a RBC magnesium test every year. I’ve been working on increasing my magnesium levels for the past couple years. Maintaining proper magnesium levels is crucial to us afibbers. Most people with atrial fibrillation have magnesium deficiencies so increasing your levels can help manage the condition.
I had my EXA test and RBC test completed on May 18, 2017. I’ve been meaning to get this post up for over a month now but it took a while to get my EXA test results back. Let’s dive into these tests and see what’s up!
EXA Test Results – May 18, 2017
I was pleasantly surprised at my results. I was actually thrilled at the results! The EXA test reference range for normal magnesium levels is 34.0 – 42.0.
I was at…drop roll, please…37.4! Here is a copy of my actual EXA test results:
(click on the images to see the full-size reports)
Why was I so happy? Since March 2015, my magnesium levels have slowly increased. It has taken a lot of effort (and money) but it has paid off. Here are my EXA Test results for the past three years:
In addition to being surprised over my magnesium levels, I found it interesting that my potassium levels continue to be on the lower end of normal. Last year my potassium was at 137.8 and this year when I took the test it was at 128.3. The normal reference range is 80.0 – 240.0. I’d like to see it closer to 160 or more.
Monitoring potassium can be just as important as magnesium for people with afib. In fact for some afibbers, potassium may be more important. Too much or too little potassium can trigger afib, PVCs, or PACs. I’ve been emailing with a fellow afibber who claims he has completely managed his afib just by maintaining proper potassium levels. He doesn’t take any magnesium. All he focuses on is potassium.
It’s important to note that unlike magnesium, your potassium levels fluctuate greatly throughout the day. You can affect your potassium levels immediately just by eating potassium rich foods or taking a potassium supplement. Magnesium levels, on the other hand, are very difficult to budge. It can take months of consistent magnesium intake to move the numbers.
Because you have to do an overnight fast when you take the EXA test, it’s very possible my potassium levels were low simply because I hadn’t consumed any potassium prior to taking the test. On a normal day, it’s possible my potassium levels are exactly where they need to be. To get a true test of your potassium levels you’d have to test for it a couple times per day and then average the numbers.
The Price of the EXA Test – May 18, 2017
The price for the EXA test continues to baffle me. They don’t mention pricing anywhere on their site and if you email them for a price they don’t respond. I paid $684 for the EXA test in 2015 and then $295 in 2016. Why such a huge difference? I have no idea.
Fortunately this year the price for the EXA test was the same as last year – $295. I also had to pay the doctor that administered the test 15 minutes of his time, which was $38.25. And since IntraCellular Diagnostics, Inc. (the company behind EXA) won’t send you the results directly, I had to pay another 15 minutes of my doctor’s time for him to go over the results with me.
All told, I paid $371.50 for the EXA test this year which is about what I paid in 2016.
RBC Magnesium Test Results – May 18, 2017
I’m fortunate because the independent lab that does the RBC magnesium tests is only about six blocks down from my naturopathic doctor’s office. This works great as I can kill two birds with one stone.
Like the EXA test, the RBC test indicated my magnesium levels were up from last year! The RBC normal reference range for magnesium is 4.2 – 6.8 mg/dL. This year I was at 5.3. Here is a copy of the results:
(click on the images to see the full-size reports)
You might be thinking, “Of course it’s up. If it’s up on the EXA test it should be up on the RBC too.” Well, that’s what I thought too but in 2015 and 2016 that wasn’t the case at all as you’ll see in a moment.
Here are my RBC magnesium test results for the past three years:
Do you notice anything when you compare the RBC results to the EXA results? With the exception of this year, they have never correlated. In 2015 the RBC indicated I was solidly in the normal range but the EXA test indicated I was well below normal. In 2016 the RBC indicated my magnesium were down from the previous year. By contrast, the EXA test that year indicated my levels had improved.
I still have no idea why the RBC and EXA test results don’t track together. You would think if you were up in one you’d be up in the other. I’m sure there is an easy explanation but nobody has been able to tell me why. If you can, please explain in the comments below!
The Price of the RBC Magnesium Test – May 18, 2017
The price of the RBC magnesium test is simple and straight forward. For the past three years it has always been $49. I always do it through www.requestatest.com.
Aside from the price of the test itself, there are no other fees so it’s just $49. I wish the EXA test was as cheap as the RBC!
How Did I Increase My Magnesium Levels?
As I mentioned previously in this post, increasing your magnesium levels in general is hard to do. It can be particularly difficult for those of us with afib as we tend to be magnesium wasters. It takes regular and consistent intake of a high quality magnesium supplement to increase your levels.
Some afibbers may never be able to increase their magnesium levels with supplements alone. My good friend and Editor of Afibbers.org was one of those people. No matter how much magnesium he took, he couldn’t get his magnesium levels to budge. He had to resort to regular IV magnesium treatments to get his numbers to move.
When I told him how low my magnesium levels were back in 2015, he suggested I try IV magnesium. I tried it but my IV magnesium experience didn’t go so well. Supplements were my only option. Fortunately, I found one that is the best magnesium supplement available and it’s called ReMag.
I have taken ReMag exclusively as my oral magnesium supplement since my first EXA test back in 2015. I have typically taken anywhere from 400-800mg of ReMag per day for the past three years. The reason for the wide dosage range is because I’m constantly tweaking and experimenting.
For the longest time I was taking around 800mg per day. I noticed during that time my PVCs and PACs were at their worst. It dawned on me that maybe I was taking too much ReMag so I backed it down to around 600mg per day. That seemed to help settle down the PVCs and PACs. I then tried 400mg per day and that seemed to work equally as well. Today I take a minimum of 400mg per day and often times as much as 600mg per day of ReMag.
When I had my first EXA test done in 2015 – the year my magnesium levels were at their lowest – I was taking around 600mg per day of a “high quality” magnesium glycinate supplement. Most doctors and “magnesium gurus” will tell you glycinate is the best form of magnesium because of its relative high absorption rate.
Well I’m here to tell you, ReMag blows any glycinate supplement out of the water. My test results speak for themselves! Only through consistent intake of ReMag was I able to increase my magnesium levels.
I told myself that after this year’s EXA and RBC tests I wasn’t going to do them again for at least a couple more years. However, I was so blown away at the progress I made in increasing my magnesium levels that I will probably do the tests again next year. Now I’m curious to see if I can maintain these levels and maybe improve them!
Another test I have been meaning to take care of is a vitamin D test. Vitamin D helps absorb magnesium. As a result, the more magnesium you take the more vitamin D you need to take. I’ve been taking anywhere from 2,000 – 4,000 units of vitamin D per day for the past couple years. I take 2,000 units per day during the summer and if I know I’m going to be out in the sun on a given day I won’t take it at all. In the winter months I crank it up to 4,000 units per day.
I haven’t taken a vitamin D test in well over a year now. The last time I tested my vitamin D I was in a very healthy range so I assume it’s still pretty good since I haven’t changed my vitamin D intake all that much. Still, though, I’m going to have the test done just to confirm.
Having a vitamin D test done every year along with the EXA and RBC tests would be interesting. I might discover that maintaining a certain vitamin D level helps to maintain or increase my magnesium levels. I just think it would be another interesting metric to track.
Other than that, I have no other plans as it pertains to my afib or my heart. I’m just trying to enjoy the NSR that God has blessed me with and make the most of each and every day I’m given without the burden of atrial fibrillation. If anything changes with the status of my afib, you’ll be the first to know. Otherwise, I’m going to enjoy the rest of summer. I hope you do too!