Restless Legs Syndrome Increases Blood Pressure

Nocturnal spikes in systolic and diastolic blood pressure could increase risk of heart disease

MONDAY, April 9 (HealthDay News) -- In patients with restless legs syndrome, blood pressure spikes associated with periodic leg movements during sleep could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, especially in the elderly, according to the results of a small study published in the April 10 issue of Neurology.

Paola Lanfranchi, M.D., of the Universite de Montreal in Quebec, Canada, and colleagues studied 10 patients (mean age 47.3 years) who underwent one night of polysomnography and blood pressure monitoring. In each patient, the investigators analyzed 10 periodic leg movements during sleep with microarousals and 10 periodic leg movements during sleep without microarousals.

The researchers found that all periodic leg movements during sleep were associated with average increases of 22 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure and 11 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure. They also found that greater blood pressure changes were associated with periodic leg movements during sleep with microarousals, increased age and illness duration.

"These findings are congruent with the hypothesis that leg movements are part of the same periodic activation process that is responsible for cardiovascular and EEG changes during sleep," the authors conclude. "Furthermore, they are in agreement with the theory that there exists a hierarchically organized arousal response system, involving both central and autonomic functions in a continuum, where higher levels of brainstem stimulation might lead to more intense cortical and autonomic responses."

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