A recent study published in Neurology (Jan 2009) found that people with Restless Leg Syndrome are at an increased risk for a stroke and heart disease. In fact adults with Restless Leg Syndrome were more than twice as likely to develop heart disease or a stroke. This study evaluated over 3,400 people. People who had Restless Leg Syndrome symptoms at least 16 times per month were at the greatest risk.
The exact mechanism that leads to this increased risk is unknown but several theories exist:
1) Periodic leg movements throughout the night can trigger an increase in blood pressure and heart rate.
2) Sleep disturbances have been reported to increase the risk for heart disease. People with Restless Leg Syndrome experience frequent awakenings and poor sleep quality.
People who have Restless Leg Syndrome should discuss their overall risk for heart disease and stroke with their health care provider and optimize all their risk factors in order to prevent a heart attack!