People with restless leg syndrome are at an increased risk for developing stroke, heart and kidney diseases, revealed a new study.
The study was conducted by a team of scientists from the Memphis VA Medical Center, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and the University of California, Irvine and was funded by the Veterans Administration and the National Institutes of Health. The study was published in the Journal of Sleep Research
Researchers used "propensity matching" for selecting 3,700 men and women affected with restless leg syndrome from a database of three million U.S. military service veterans. A control group of veterans without RLS was then selected based on 20 or more matching demographic and clinical factors.
They performed statistical analysis at the end of a study to account for mitigating factors. Researchers found that there was a fourfold higher incidence of stroke and heart disease and a threefold higher incidence of kidney disease in the RLS group. The gap in all-cause mortality between the groups was smaller, but the Veterans with RLS were still 88 percent more likely to die during the follow-up period.
The study led by Dr. Miklos Z. Molnar at UT, mentioned several theories as to how RLS is possibly linked to other poor health outcomes. For example, the chronic loss of sleep itself could directly curb longevity. It could also help set the stage for heart disease, as well as other problems, such as diabetes or depression.
Researchers suggested that their future clinical trials may offer evidence on whether effectively treating RLS can stem the onset of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.