A diagnosis sheet reads, "Restless legs syndrome."
Restless legs syndrome may be linked to stroke risk. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

If you’re among the 8 to 10 percent of Americans suffering from restless legs syndrome—with its uncomfortable tingling, throbbing, creeping sensations—researchers have found yet another reason for you to choose a healthy lifestyle.

Data from a multiyear national study shows that female patients with severe restless legs syndrome may have an increased risk of stroke. Researchers defined severe as experiencing restless legs at least 15 times a month.

For Omran Kaskar, DO, the biggest takeaway from the research is that patients with this disorder need to manage their stroke risk factors. Dr. Kaskar is a vascular neurologist with Spectrum Health Medical Group and its stroke centers.

“If you do have (restless legs syndrome), maybe you have a higher risk for having a stroke, so you want to be more in tune with your primary care physician about controlling your risk factors,” Dr. Kaskar said.

“Controlling your weight, controlling your cholesterol, getting good exercise, diet, monitoring your blood pressure—everything should be in check,” he added.

Although Dr. Kaskar hasn’t worked with stroke patients who have restless legs syndrome, he said the findings are an important heads-up for restless legs syndrome patients and their health care providers.

The findings come from an analysis of survey data of more than 72,000 middle-aged women who work as registered nurses across the United States. This group is part of a larger set of female nurses—nearly 117,000 in all—who are participating in a long-term exploration of factors influencing women’s health, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

As for men with restless legs syndrome, they should pay attention, too, Dr. Kaskar said.

“The study was only done in women, but there could be a similar risk among men,” he said.