Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a prevalent sleep-related breathing disorder characterized by repetitive collapse of the upper airways leading to intermittent hypoxia and sleep disruption. Clinically relevant neurocognitive, metabolic and cardiovascular disease often occurs in OSA. Systemic hypertension, coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, cerebral vascular infarctions and atrial fibrillation are among the most often cited conditions with causal connections to OSA. Emerging science suggests that untreated and undertreated OSAs increase the risk of developing cognitive impairment, including vascular dementia and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's disease. As with OSA, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus, the incidence of dementia increases with age. Given our rapidly aging population, dementia prevalence will significantly increase. The aim of this treatise is to review current literature linking OSA to dementia and explore putative mechanisms by which OSA might facilitate the development and progression of dementia.
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