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Restless Legs Syndrome Linked to Heart Disease

Risk of cardiovascular disease is twice that of individuals without the sleep disorder

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease and cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to research published in the Jan. 1 issue of Neurology.

John W. Winkelman, M.D., Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues examined data from 1,559 men and 1,874 women participating in the Sleep Heart Health Study to investigate the association between RLS and CVD. RLS was defined based on responses to a self-administered questionnaire, and CVD determined based on history of angina, myocardial infarction, coronary revascularization, stroke or heart failure.

In all, 6.8 percent of women and 3.3 percent of men met criteria for RLS. After adjusting for confounders, individuals with RLS had an increased risk of coronary artery disease (odds ratio 2.05) and CVD (OR 2.07) compared to those without RLS. The associations were stronger in patients with more frequent and more severe RLS symptoms.

"Restless legs syndrome could produce CVD via autonomic changes observed with periodic leg movements of sleep or through other influences on sleep duration or quality. On the other hand, CVD could produce RLS via vascular changes in the central nervous system or in the periphery, or due to the influence of medications for CVD. Finally, a third factor (e.g., anemia, renal failure) might play a role in both RLS and CVD," the authors write.

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