DOI: 10.3390/ijms241713094 ISSN:

Sex Differences in Neurovascular Control: Implications for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Joshua M. Bock, Ian M. Greenlund, Virend K. Somers, Sarah E. Baker
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Spectroscopy
  • Molecular Biology
  • General Medicine
  • Catalysis

Patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have a heightened risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, namely hypertension. While seminal evidence indicates a causal role for sympathetic nerve activity in the hypertensive phenotype commonly observed in patients with OSA, no studies have investigated potential sex differences in the sympathetic regulation of blood pressure in this population. Supporting this exploration are large-scale observational data, as well as controlled interventional studies in healthy adults, indicating that sleep disruption increases blood pressure to a greater extent in females relative to males. Furthermore, females with severe OSA demonstrate a more pronounced hypoxic burden (i.e., disease severity) during rapid eye movement sleep when sympathetic nerve activity is greatest. These findings would suggest that females are at greater risk for the hemodynamic consequences of OSA and related sleep disruption. Accordingly, the purpose of this review is three-fold: (1) to review the literature linking sympathetic nerve activity to hypertension in OSA, (2) to highlight recent experimental data supporting the hypothesis of sex differences in the regulation of sympathetic nerve activity in OSA, and (3) to discuss the potential sex differences in peripheral adrenergic signaling that may contribute to, or offset, cardiovascular risk in patients with OSA.

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