We examined the prevalence of daytime hypertension in a modern sample of patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and assessed the relative risk factors contributing to the development of hypertension in this disorder. Daytime hypertension was present in 92 (45 percent) of 206 male and female patients with OSA. Stepwise logistic regression revealed that only age and body mass index (BMI) were predictors of hypertension in this population. A subsample of 152 male patients with OSA was then compared to 904 men identified from a geographically and ethnically similar general population. When one controlled for age and BMI, the prevalence of hypertension in the two groups was the same except for those aged 25 to 44 years who were markedly obese (BMI greater than 31 kg/m2). In this group, 47 percent of the patients with OSA were hypertensive vs 26 percent of control subjects (p less than 0.05). Our data suggest that the high prevalence of hypertension in OSA is primarily related to age and the excess obesity seen in these patients. In morbidly obese young patients with OSA, factors directly related to OSA may also be contributing to the development of hypertension. With increasing age, other competitive risks may obscure any independent effect that OSA may exert.