Mind and Body

Restless Legs Syndrome May Increase Blood Pressure



A new study indicates that middle-aged women who suffer from restless legs syndrome may have an increased risk of high blood pressure, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common sensory motor disorder that affects 5 to 15 percent of U.S. adults. The condition causes intense, uncomfortable leg sensations and an irresistible urge to move the legs, particularly at night. It can also disrupt sleep and cause drowsiness during the day.

In the recent study, researchers collected data from nearly 98,000 women and found that those who had symptoms indicative of restless leg syndrome were 41 percent more likely to have high blood pressure than women who did not show signs of RLS.

Furthermore, the worse ā€“ or more frequent ā€“ a womanā€™s symptoms were, the higher her blood pressure tended to be.

The link between RLS and increased blood pressure remained even after factoring in age, weight, smoking habits and prior stroke or heart attack.

The researchers speculated that the reason that women with RLS have higher blood pressure may be because the condition can interrupt sleep and cause blood pressure to be chaotic at night.

"If you didn't sleep well and you measured your blood pressure and you were anxiety-prone, the pressure would probably be higher," said Dr. Domenic Sica, professor of medicine and pharmacology and director of the Blood Pressure Disorders Unit at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

"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."

However, the researchers stressed that the overall differences in blood pressure were small and more research is needed to confirm the findings.

"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.ā€

The study was published in the journal Hypertension.

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