People with restless legs syndrome (RLS) are twice as likely to have a stroke or heart disease compared to people without RLS, and the risk is greatest in those with the most frequent and severe symptoms, according to research published in the January 1, 2008, issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
The study, the largest of its kind enrolling both men and women, involved 3,433 people with an average age of 68 who were enrolled in the Sleep Heart Health Study. Of the participants, nearly 7% of women and 3% of men had RLS.
The study found people with RLS were more than twice as likely to have cardiovascular disease or cerebrovascular disease. The results remained the same after adjusting for age, sex, race, body mass index, diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood pressure medication, HDL/LDL cholesterol levels and smoking.
Winkelman says there are limitations to the study, including that the diagnosis of RLS was self-reported by questionnaire rather than by clinical interview.