Intermittent hypoxia, cardiovascular disease and obstructive sleep apnoea
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a common disorder and is associated with cardiovascular disease. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), whilst reducing blood pressure, has not been shown to reduce cardiovascular events when used as a treatment solely for this purpose in patients with previous cardiovascular disease. Developing a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying cardiovascular disease in OSA is important to develop new treatments. Potential causative mechanisms for cardiovascular disease in OSA include arousal induced sympathetic activation, large intrathoracic pressure swings leading to shear stress on the heart and great vessels, and intermittent hypoxia (IH). This review discusses the role of IH, as a major physiological consequence of OSA, in the development of cardiovascular disease.