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Am J Med. 2013 Mar;126(3):220-7, 227.e1-2. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2012.06.040.

Vascular risk factors, cardiovascular disease, and restless legs syndrome in women.

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Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Mass, USA.



Previous studies evaluating the association of cardiovascular disease and vascular risk factors with restless legs syndrome showed inconsistent results, especially for the potential relation between various vascular risk factors and restless legs syndrome. We therefore aimed to analyze the relationships between vascular risk factors, prevalent cardiovascular disease, and restless legs syndrome.


This is a cross-sectional study of 30,262 female health professionals participating in the Women's Health Study (WHS). Restless legs syndrome was defined according to diagnostic criteria of the International Restless Legs Study Group. Information on vascular risk factors (diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, body mass index [BMI], alcohol, smoking, exercise, and family history of myocardial infarction) was self-reported. Cardiovascular disease events (coronary revascularization, myocardial infarction, and stroke) were confirmed by medical record review. Prevalent major cardiovascular disease was defined as nonfatal stroke or nonfatal myocardial infarction. Logistic regression models were used to evaluate the association between vascular risk factors, prevalent cardiovascular disease, and restless legs syndrome.


Of the 30,262 participants (mean age: 63.6 years), 3624 (12.0%) reported restless legs syndrome. In multivariable-adjusted models, BMI (odds ratio [OR] for BMI ≥35 kg/m(2), 1.35; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.17-1.56), diabetes (OR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.04-1.35), hypercholesterolemia (OR, 1.17; 95% CI, 1.09-1.26), smoking status (OR for ≥15 cigarettes/day, 1.41; 95% CI, 1.19-1.66), and exercise (OR for exercise ≥4 times/week, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.74-0.95) were associated with restless legs syndrome prevalence. We found no association between prevalent cardiovascular disease (major cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, and stroke) and restless legs syndrome prevalence. Women who underwent coronary revascularization had a multivariable-adjusted OR of 1.39 (1.10-1.77) for restless legs syndrome.


In this large cohort of female health professionals, various vascular risk factors are associated with the prevalence of restless legs syndrome. We could not confirm the results of previous reports indicating an association between prevalent cardiovascular disease and restless legs syndrome.

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