Study: Restless legs may be a sign of heart risks

Apr 03, 2011 By MARILYNN MARCHIONE , AP Medical Writer

(AP) -- The nighttime twitching of restless legs syndrome may be more than an annoyance: New research suggests that in some people, it could be a sign of hidden heart problems.

People with very frequent leg movements during sleep were more likely to have thick hearts - a condition that makes them more prone to , stroke and death, the study by Mayo Clinic doctors found.

"We are not saying there is a cause-and-effect relationship," just that restless legs might be a sign of trouble that doctors and patients should consider, said Dr. Arshad Jahangir, a heart rhythm specialist at the Mayo Clinic Arizona in Scottsdale.

He led the study and gave results Sunday at an American College of Cardiology conference in New Orleans.

is thought to afflict millions, though there's argument about just how many. Some doctors think its seriousness has been exaggerated, possibly to help sell treatments.

The syndrome gained more scientific respect several years ago, when several genes were linked to it. And doctors have long known that other types of such as sleep apnea raise the risk of heart problems.

The new research suggests the same may be true of the syndrome, famously referred to as "the jimmy legs" in an old "Seinfeld" episode.

The study is one of the first to look at how the syndrome affects health "other than the nuisance that it is," said the cardiology college's president, Dr. Ralph Brindis of the University of California, San Francisco.

It involved 584 people diagnosed with the syndrome by a based on four widely used criteria. Participants were given an imaging test that allowed heart thickness to be measured three ways, and were kept overnight so their sleep could be monitored.

Afterward, researchers divided them into two groups based on the frequency of leg twitches. The 45 percent who twitched at least 35 times per hour were more likely to have the thick-heart condition than the other 55 percent of study participants who kicked less often.

Looking at all study participants about three years later, researchers saw that those with severely thick hearts - about a quarter of the total group - were more than twice as likely to have suffered a heart problem or to have died.

The study was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and a private grant.

People with restless legs shouldn't panic, but it's worth talking with doctors about whether more tests are needed to look for an enlarged heart, Jahangir said.

"Don't ignore it. Discuss it with your physician," he said.

Explore further: Research gives new insights into rare disease of the inner ear

More information: Heart meeting: http://www.acc.org

4 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Race is strong predictor for restless legs syndrome

Nov 02, 2009

New research shows that Caucasian women may suffer from restless legs syndrome (RLS), a sleep disorder characterized by the strong urge to move the legs, up to four times more than African-American women. The study, presented ...

Recommended for you

Thyroid disease risk varies among blacks, Asians, and whites

12 hours ago

An analysis that included active military personnel finds that the rate of the thyroid disorder Graves disease is more common among blacks and Asian/Pacific Islanders compared with whites, according to a study in the April ...

The key to easy asthma diagnosis is in the blood

15 hours ago

Using just a single drop of blood, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers has developed a faster, cheaper and more accurate tool for diagnosing even mild cases of asthma.

Younger adults hit hardest this flu season

17 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The H1N1 flu was the predominant influenza strain in the United States this year, but it packed a lot less punch than in 2009 when it caused a worldwide pandemic, health officials report.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Low Vitamin D may not be a culprit in menopause symptoms

A new study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) shows no significant connection between vitamin D levels and menopause symptoms. The study was published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopa ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.