If you have restless legs syndrome your chances of having a heart attack or stroke are doubled compared to those without restless legs, according to an article by Consumer Affairs. The risk is the greatest for those who have the most frequent and the most severe symptoms.
The American Academy of Neurology conducted a Sleep heart Health Study that included 3,433 men and women. To determine if the study participants had RLS, they completed a questionnaire and were also asked if they had ever been diagnosed with systemic diseases including cardiovascular disease and cerebrovascular disease. Of the participants, nearly seven percent of women and three percent of men had RLS.
The results showed that people with RLS were twice as likely to have cardiovascular disease or cerebrovascular disease. The study considered factors such as age, sex, race, BMI, diabetes, medications and other factors and the results were still the same.
“The association of RLS with heart disease and stroke was strongest in those people who had RLS symptoms at least 16 times per month,” said study author John W. Winkelman, MD, PhD, with Harvard Medical School in Boston. “There was also an increased risk among people who said their RLS symptoms were severe compared to those with less bothersome symptoms. In particular, most people with RLS have as many as 200 to 300 periodic leg movements per night of sleep and these leg 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.”
Dr. Winkelman said that the patients were self-diagnosed for RLS by a questionnaire and not a clincial interview so there are limitations to the study.