Scuba divers beware of cardiovascular problems!

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Take care of your heart while underwater

There are many cardiovascular diseases, and they range from hypertension, coronary artery disease, stroke, rheumatic heart disease and congenital diseases to other less common forms. Deadly underwater accidents due to cardiovascular problems are unfortunately very common. The issue is even more evident with increasing age of divers. Between 1900 and 1995, 12% of deadly underwater accidents was related to cardiovascular problems, but the rate increases to 26% if we consider individuals over 35 years of age.

Underwater diving activities are normally carried out in one of two ways: breath-holding (freediving) or with the use of a SCUBA set (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus), though both methods demand a constant and significant cardiovascular involvement and therefore a possible insurgence of cardiovascular problems.

The importance of being in good physical condition is well known. Many of the collateral activities to diving require physical fitness: transporting gear, swimming against a current, freeing oneself from a net underwater, boarding a boat from the water and contrasting sudden variations in the sea or the weather are all good reasons to stay in shape while contributing towards the prevention of cardiovascular issues.

The risk of cardiovascular issues is determined by many factors, including maximal oxygen consumption, resting heart rate, blood pressure, cardiovascular fitness and muscle endurance.

The practice of this sport requires an appropriate physical condition. All those who have recently experienced hypertensive events and are not in treatment should be considered unsuitable for the activity until they undergo appropriate treatment.

There are certain changes to the circulation that occur during underwater diving. During the immersion phase there is a buildup of blood at the lungs, while in the emersion phase blood flow is concentrated peripherally in the limbs. This causes significant stress on the heart, in the first case on the right side of the heart, and in the second case on the left side. Both phases involve significant cardiovascular risks, the most common of which is acute pulmonary edema, which can be aggravated by heart failure, syncope, and in some cases even cardiac arrest.

We recommend you undergo an appropriate medical examination and make sure your blood pressure is in control before carrying out this activity in order to reduce the probability of the insurgence of cardiovascular problems during your underwater adventures.

 

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