MONDAY, Oct. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Middle-aged women who suffer
from a common condition called restless legs syndrome may be at
increased risk of high blood pressure, U.S. researchers report.
Restless legs syndrome is a sensory motor disorder that causes
intense, unpleasant leg sensations, and an irresistible urge to
move the legs, often at night. The condition, which may affect
between 5 to 15 percent of U.S. adults, can disrupt sleep and cause
"For those who experience restless legs syndrome symptoms, please consult your doctor regarding this issue," said lead researcher Dr. Xiang Gao, an assistant professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School. "The risk of hypertension can be substantially reduced by following a healthy life style, including a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and keeping optimal body weight," he added.
Unabated, hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, can
have dire consequences. In 2006, it contributed to 326,000 deaths
in the United States, according to background information in the
study, published online Oct. 10 in
For the study, Gao's team collected data on almost 98,000 women,
averaging about 50 years of age, who took part in the Nurses Health
Study II. In 2005, the women were asked about symptoms that could
indicate restless legs syndrome (RLS) and also about their blood
Specifically, they were asked if they had unusual crawling
sensations, or pain combined with motor restlessness plus an "urge
to move." Women with five or more episodes a month were considered
to have RLS, and more than 65,500 were included in the final
The researchers found a significant connection between RLS and
blood pressure. The worse a woman's RLS, the higher her blood
pressures, they reported.
More than one-quarter (26 percent) of the women with five to 14
incidents of RLS a month had high blood pressure, according to the
study, an among women with 15 or more episodes a month, one in
three had high blood pressure.
Only about percent of the women without RLS had high blood
pressure, the researchers said.
The link between restless legs syndrome and increased blood
pressure remained even after the researchers took into account the
women's age, weight, smoking, and stroke or heart attack. However,
the overall differences in blood pressure were small, the authors
stressed, and more research is needed to confirm the findings.
"Because this is a cross-sectional study, we don't know which condition -- restless legs syndrome or hypertension -- comes first," Gao said. "But one possibility is that women with restless legs syndrome are more likely to develop high blood pressure in the future. However, we should be very cautious to reach such a conclusion as it should be supported by a prospective study," he said.
Earlier studies in men also found a link between restless legs
syndrome and high blood pressure, the researchers noted.
Dr. Domenic Sica, professor of medicine and pharmacology and
director of the Blood Pressure Disorders Unit at Virginia
Commonwealth University in Richmond, and co-author of an
accompanying journal editorial, noted that interrupted sleep can
affect blood pressure.
"If you didn't sleep well and you measured your blood pressure and you were anxiety-prone, the pressure would probably be higher," he said. "Sleep can help anxiety, but if you don't sleep you never have enough rest to bring your blood pressure down at night, which is what it's supposed to do. Blood pressure is supposed to drop about 20 percent at night."
Restless legs syndrome can cause blood pressure to be chaotic at
night, Sica said. Still unknown is how treating RLS would affect
blood pressure, he said.
If RLS is treated, one may feel better the next day after
getting uninterrupted sleep, Sica said. "But whether that
translates into blood pressure reduction remains the million dollar
question," he said.
For more information on hypertension, visit the
American Heart Association.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.