Restless Leg Syndrome and heart issues

People with Restless Leg Syndrome, a neurological disorder characterised by an irresistible urge to move one's legs, appear to have more thickening of the heart muscle, researchers said.

If that finding can be confirmed, it could put them at greater risk for a serious heart condition over time, the researchers said.

Restless Leg Syndrome "is the most common disease no one has ever heard of," said Dr Arshad Jahangir, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, who led a study that examined an associated between the syndrome and heart disease.

The study

The study involved 584 patients who were diagnosed with Restless Leg Syndrome and referred to an overnight sleep clinic. Those who moved their legs more frequently while asleep were more likely to be older, male and had a higher incidence of coronary artery disease.

Doctors have known for a long time that people with a thickening of the heart muscle, known as left ventricular hypertrophy, are at greater risk for heart problems.

"What is new about this study is that it appears Restless Leg Syndrome is another risk factor that may predispose patients to and lead to more complications of left ventricular hypertrophy," Jahangir said, adding that people who have the syndrome should discuss it with their doctors.

High BP and heart rate

Increases in heart rate and blood pressure have previously been reported in patients with the syndrome.

"Similar mechanisms may be contributing to left ventricular hypertrophy, but this needs to be confirmed," he said.

That's because this type of "observational" study can't actually prove a link between the two conditions.

Jahangir also said future research should assess whether treatments for Restless Leg Syndrome can prevent thickening of the heart muscle. (Reuters Health/ March 2011)

Read more in the heart centre

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