The "typical" presentation of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is chronic loud snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness in middle-aged obese men. OSA can result in increased risk for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. The diagnostic features of OSA in older adults are similar to those in younger adults; however, the older adult may be less likely to seek medical attention or have the sleep disorder recognized because symptoms of snoring, sleepiness, fatigue, nocturia, unintentional napping, and cognitive dysfunction may be ascribed to the aging process itself or to other disorders. This article reviews the basic terminology and pathophysiology of sleep-disordered breathing, discusses why OSA may be even more prevalent in older adults than in the middle-aged group, and reviews similarities and differences between the two groups in the manifestations, consequences, and treatments of OSA.
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