Repeated muscle twitchings in the legs, a phenomenon known as restless legs syndrome, can damage the heart, possibly by interfering with sleep at night, researchers said Sunday. The condition, they found, is linked to a problem known as left ventricular hypertrophy, in which the wall of the heart becomes thicker, making pumping blood more difficult. Left ventricular hypertrophy, in turn, has been associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
An estimated 12 million Americans are thought to suffer from restless legs syndrome, but there is controversy about whether it is a serious problem -- or even a real one. Some recent studies, however, have linked it to specific genes, indicating that it is a physiological phenomenon and not just a minor ailment.