Middle-aged women with RLS at risk for high blood pressure

October 21, 2011

Middle-aged women with RLS may be at higher risk of developing high blood pressure, according to a study published online October 10 in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Middle-aged women with restless legs syndrome (RLS) may be at higher risk of developing high blood pressure, according to a study published online October 10 in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Salma Batool-Anwar, MD, MPH, the study’s first author and a researcher in the Sleep Medicine Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues examined the relationship between RLS and hypertension among middle-aged women after noting that some research suggests a connection.

The researchers conducted a cross-sectional study of 97,642 women who participated in the Nurses Health Study II. Participants responded to a questionnaire based on the International Restless Legs Study Group criteria asking about their RLS symptoms and hypertension status. More than 80% of the participants responded. The average age of respondents was 50.4 years. 

Data analysis demonstrated a significant relationship between the severity of RLS and blood pressure. In addition, greater frequency of RLS symptoms was associated with higher concurrent systolic and diastolic blood pressures (P trend: <.0001 for both). This association was independent of other potential covariates such as age, body mass index, smoking status, and presence of stroke or heart attack. The researchers concluded that women with RLS have a higher prevalence of hypertension, which increases with more frequent RLS symptoms.

“If future prospective research confirms this association, then early diagnosis and treatment of RLS might help prevent hypertension,” said Dr Batool-Anwar in a press release revealing the study outcome.