Nearly one in 10 Americans have the strong urge to move their legs, and not in a productive manner. About five million U.S. adults have moderate to severe restless leg syndrome (RLS), a disorder that causes a person’s legs to move uncontrollably, often leading to discomfort and irritation.
A new study has found that there may be more pressing issues to contend with than mere lower extremity discomfort, as restless leg syndrome has now been found to be linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease-related death among women.
A distressing condition
Restless leg syndrome can begin at any age and generally worsens with time. In the majority of cases, it is believed that this condition is caused by an iron deficiency, however, associations between ADHD and certain medications have been found.
Symptoms of restless leg syndrome include:
- The feeling of crawling, creeping, pulling, throbbing, aching, and/or itching in the legs.
- Sensation of restless legs at rest: Symptoms often begin after lying down or sitting for extended periods of time, such as sleeping in bed or sitting on an airplane.
- Movement provides relief: Symptoms of restless leg syndrome lessen with stretching, jiggling, pacing, or walking.
- Symptoms are often worse at night
Besides the inconvenience of disturbed sleep, restless leg syndrome is more or less devoid of long-term consequences, with treatment often involving lifestyle modification and medical therapy if required. However, Xiang Gao, an associate professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State University, believes that women have a 43 percent higher likelihood of death due to cardiovascular disease during a ten-year period, compared to those without the condition.
Looking at thousands of movies
The study in question included over 57,000 women of an average age of 67, all of whom were part of the Nurses’ Health study. Various criteria pertaining to long-term effects of nutrients, hormones, environment, and nurses’ work-life and disease development were taken.
Over a ten year period, 6,448 deaths were recorded, with those participants with RLS being significantly associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease mortality.
“This study suggests that RLS could be a novel risk factor for CVD-related death. People with RLS are at elevated risk of CVD and other chronic conditions, but previous studies of all-cause mortality in people with RLS have reported inconsistent results,” Gao said. “Our research clarifies how restless leg syndrome affects cardiovascular disease-related mortality in older women, specifically.”
It is known that people with RLS have other diseases and conditions that already increase their risk for cardiovascular diseases, such as obesity and high blood pressure. However, this new study has accounted for these variables and adjusted their data accordingly, discovering a stoke linked between cardiovascular disease-related death and restless leg syndrome.
The researchers believe that further study is needed to understand this relationship. Additionally, no associations between RLS and cancer or other causes were found.