Restless legs is a condition characterised by uncomfortable sensations in the legs, usually when individuals are sitting or lying in bed. The sensations tend to make sufferers want to move their legs and body in an effort to ease the discomfort or find a more comfortable position. The condition can cause sufferers to lose out on essential sleep. I was interested to see this recent study, published in the journal Hypertension, which looked at the relationship between women with restless legs and high blood pressure .
Overall, women with restless legs were 20 per cent more likely to have high blood pressure compared to non-sufferers. Also, the more severe the symptoms (the more frequent the episodes of restless legs), the higher the blood pressure tended to be. Individuals suffering from 15 or more episodes of restless legs in a month were found to be at 41 per cent increased risk of high blood pressure compared to those without the condition.
If I were allow only one word to attempt to explain the association between restless legs and high blood pressure it would be this: magnesium.
It’s no panacea, but in practice I have found magnesium to be generally very effective in reducing and controlling the symptoms of restless legs. Magnesium is one nutrient that is essential for proper muscle function, and a lack of it can cause malfunction here, with symptoms ranging from restless legs, to ‘tight’ muscles, muscle fatigue and a tendency to cramping.
There’s also muscle, though, to be found in the arteries of the body. In theory, magnesium deficiency could cause ‘tightness’ here too, which might push blood pressure up. In fact, there is evidence of low magnesium levels in individuals suffering from high blood pressure , as well as evidence that magnesium therapy can be effective for lowering blood pressure.
The fact that restless legs and high blood pressure are commonly found together suggest that they often have the same cause. My experience in practice and some science tells me that that common cause maybe magnesium deficiency.
1. Batool-Anwar S, et al. Restless Legs Syndrome and Hypertension in Middle-Aged Women. Hypertension. 2011 Oct 10. [Epub ahead of print]
2. Resnick LM, et al. Intracellular free magnesium in erythrocytes of essential hypertension: relation to blood pressure and serum divalent cations. PNAS 1984; 81(20):6511-6515