‘Restless legs’ and high blood pressure often found together in women. Why?

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 [1].

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 [2], 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.

References:

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

10 Responses to ‘Restless legs’ and high blood pressure often found together in women. Why?

  1. Jennifer Eloff 14 October 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    Ian’s Dad who is doctor put me onto folic acid and now for years I don’t have that problem. By the way I have normal to low blood pressure. I do think magnesium oxide is a good one to take as well. Most people are deficient in this nutrient. There is another magnesium one can take but it is difficult to absorb and has a laxative effect.

  2. Angelyne 15 October 2011 at 1:49 am #

    This information is very timely for me. I’ve recently become concerned with my blood pressure. It’s always been high-normal but now it’s inching higher. For the past few months, I’ve cut out wheat and sugar from my diet and am limiting my starches, so I was expecting some kind of improvement and was disappointed when I didn’t any. I’m going to try magnesium supplementation.

    I really should get myself checked out by a doctor, but I am so very reluctant to do so. I don’t want to get pushed into a conventional medicine model, prescribed high blood medication, statins and all the rest (not that I’d ever take the statin).

  3. charlotte 16 October 2011 at 12:32 am #

    what kind of magnesium is recommended here ?

  4. liz 16 October 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    I think the stress that Bee mentions is also an interesting factor here, particularly because of its possible link to high blood pressure. In the last year I’ve suffered intermittently with tight, aching hip flexors, and an ache that feels as though it’s ‘inside’ the hip bone/pelvis. I notice that it becomes much worse during periods of stress at work: if I wake up during the night worrying, the aching hips and thighs will often stop me getting back to sleep.

    The only things that currently seem to provide relief are running (for 30 or so minutes on the treadmill), and making more effort to deal with work-related stress and anxiety! But after reading this, I’m definitely going to try to take my magnesium supplements much more regularly.

  5. Bee Hepworth 16 October 2011 at 11:38 pm #

    I suffered greatly from ectopic palpitations for 18 months for which the doctors could offer me no help. My husband is a vet and told me he used to give sheep an injection of magnesium to treat ‘the staggers’ in springtime, as magnesium is a membrane stabiliser. I started on supplements (150mg – only half the RDA) and the palpitations went away in 4 days. I also have high blood pressure and had restless legs – the magnesium cured those too.So this is just to confirm, from personal experience, your observations Dr Briffa!

  6. Bee Hepworth 16 October 2011 at 11:53 pm #

    Charlotte – to add to my previous mail – I take magnesium oxide and hydroxide which are combined in the Healthspan version. Theirs is 300mg but I take only half, leaving a leeway in case the palpitations reappear which they can do at times of stress. I avoid the magnesium citrate sold by Holland and Barrett as it can give one the runs! Hope this helps.

  7. kris 17 October 2011 at 11:54 am #

    I’m so grateful whenever I read about RLS — for the longest time I had no idea what was “wrong” with me and still I sometimes encounter people who think that I must be dreaming it up. My symptoms have greatly improved with supplementation.

  8. Lady_M 19 October 2011 at 7:35 pm #

    I suffered from restless legs for over a year. I went to my Dr who was little help and about 6 months ago someone mentioned magnesium oil (which you can get from health food stores) this helped quite a lot. But I still had quite high blood pressure. I didn’t want to start taking medication so had a look at what else might help and came across a company called Get Fitt.I started using one of their far infrared Cocoons. My blood pressure normalised within a month and I sleep so much better.

  9. Steve Root 19 October 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    Magnesium deficiency is widespread, with varying symptoms. RLS and high blood pressure, leg cramps, anxiety, depression, migraines and more. If you examine your diet vs. the US RDA of 420mg per day, I am betting you will be chronically 30% or more short. People’s absorption varies, and serum mg levels are not useful information.

    I cured my dog’s nearly monthly seizures with mag water, which is a great and cheap way to supplement ($1.20 a week for both the dog and me). Google mag water for recipe. Magnesium oil (topical) has a big effect for me, too. Mag oxide and hydroxide are not reported to be well absorbed, and many people have good experience with citrate and glycinate. Do your research on oral supplements. Oral supplementation takes a while to increase blood levels. I believe the quickest ways to boost magnesium would be combined mag water and topical mag oil.

  10. dawn 3 November 2012 at 2:15 am #

    Low iron caused mine, made my thyroid hormones pool also.

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