Parkinson’s Disease, RLS and Being Overweight – Is There a Connection?

A fairly new study has shown that people who have big bellies (not from pregnancy) have an increased risk for Restless Leg Syndrome, otherwise known as RLS.

RLS is a neurological condition/disorder that causes people to have an irresistible desire to move their legs and not because they want to go jogging. RLS is diagnosed by four criteria. They are: strong urge to move your legs, the symptoms worsen when at rest, improve when you become active/move your legs/walk, and symptoms are worse at night. It is understandable and goes without saying that someone with RLS could have difficulty sleeping.

RLS is known to be one of the many blessings (note sarcasm) of Parkinson’s disease for some patients. Along with the medications that cause drowsiness, some contend with RLS regularly,  contributing ot the inability to sleep. The two don’t mix well. 

Is there anything that can be done about RLS? In a new study recently published by HealthDay News, it showed that obesity played a key role in the increase of risk for having RLS, according to lead researcher Dr. Xiang Gao. He went on to say that a person with a larger waist has a sixty percent increased risk of having RLS.

Along with other data gathered from his research, Gao noted that being overweight, and most of it resting in the waistline area, could contribute to the development of RLS. In the study, over 85,000 people took part. Among those involved, almost one-and-a-half times greater was the risk of having RLS if obesity was a factor.

Obese people have lower dopamine receptor levels in the brain. For those with Parkinson’s disease, this could have a two-fold effect in relation to RLS. One, it’s annoying and two, if you’re overweight, you’ve increased the likelihood of dealing with RLS at some point along the PD trail.

Now, before you go get the ice cream from the freezer to fend off frustration, if it’s suggested that, according to this study, obese individuals have a higher risk for RLS, then it must be said losing those extra pounds would play a part in preventing the ever-annoying RLS.  Just another good reason to eat healthy and be as fit as you possible can.

It is not for certain that being obese plays such a large role in having RLS, but if there’s a possibility of warding off something as irritating as Restless Leg Syndrome, it’s worth trying to lose those extra pounds around the middle to see if it makes a difference.  

Since RLS has a direct correlation with decreased dopamine, it is easy to see why people with PD are or can be more susceptible to RLS. So, the next time you sit down to relax and your legs start going crazy on you, get up and walk around. Just make sure it’s not a walk to the fridge.

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