Restless Legs Connected With Hypertension

Restless legs syndrome at heightened risk for high blood pressure

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) For middle-aged women with restless legs syndrome, it's not just itching and an irresistible urge to move the legs. It also may be a risk factor for high blood pressure.

Restless legs syndrome is a disorder characterized by leg sensations that can be intense and unpleasant, along with poor sleep and drowsiness during the day. It affects up to 15 percent of the population, according to the American Heart Association.

"Get checked for the syndrome if you notice symptoms."

Dr. Salma Batool-Anwar, the study’s first author, a researcher in the sleep medicine division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, noted that if additional research confirms the link between restless legs syndrome and hypertension, early diagnosis could help in preventing high blood pressure.

Dr. Batool-Anwar said that in some cases of treating restless legs syndrome it can be as simple as prescribing iron supplements, and suggested women with symptoms of the disorder speak to their doctors.

Researchers questioned 97,642 women with an average age of 50 years old, who were participating in the Nurses Health Study II about their symptoms of restless legs syndrome and blood pressure status in 2005. More than 80 percent of those asked responded.

They found that of women who reported more than 15 incidences of restless legs syndrome each month, 33 percent had high blood pressure, while 26 percent of those that reported between five and 14 incidences of the syndrome monthly had hypertension. Among women with no symptoms of the disorder, 21 percent had high blood pressure.

Investigators concluded that there was a significant link between restless legs syndrome severity and high blood pressure, and that greater frequency of symptoms was linked with higher concurrent systolic and diastolic blood pressures. This was regardless of other factors such as age, smoking status or heart disease.

The clinical study was published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.

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Review Date: 
October 13, 2011
Last Updated:
October 1, 2013