Restless Legs Linked to Heart Disease and Stroke

A study published in the latest issue of Neurology found that people with restless leg syndrome (RLS) have double the risk of heart disease and stroke. The study included nearly 3,500 community based participants of average age 68 years from the Sleep Heart Health Study. The researchers used information provided by participants through detailed questionnaires to establish who had RLS and who had received a diagnosis for symptoms of angina, myocardial infarction, stroke or heart failure to help determine the presence of coronary artery disease and cardiovascular disease including reports of stroke or heart failure.

6.8 percent of female and 3.3 percent of male participants had RLS. People with RLS were found to be 2 times more likely to have cardiovascular disease or cerebrovascular disease. The link between RLS and heart disease was stronger in people who reported having RLS symptoms at least 16 times per month and in people who reported severe as opposed to "bothersome" symptoms.

 Up to 10 percent of Americans are estimated to suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome. The biggest challenge for people suffering from the condition is the periodic limb movements during sleep that can cause sleep deprivation and seriously affect health.

 Lead author, Dr. John Winkelmen, claims, "In particular, most people with RLS have as many as 200 to 300 periodic leg movements per night of sleep and these movements are associated with substantial acute increases in both blood pressure and heart rate, which may, over the long term, produce cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease."


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