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Hypertension and Scuba Diving

The health risks associated with hypertension (higher than 'normal' blood pressure readings) is a medical condition that also affects some scuba divers.

This information will help you to determine whether you can go scuba diving with hypertension and what additional dangers taking antihypertensive drugs may pose.

How Does High Blood Pressure Affect Divers

A report released by the American Heart Association suggests over 120 million Americans (from age 20) are hypertensive.

Thus, high blood pressure poses some danger to individuals that scuba dive - especially those over the age of forty.

Here's the thing:

Blood exerts a force as it pushes outward against the walls of arteries.

No matter what your blood pressure reading is (high, normal, or low), it's measured as a ratio in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).

In other words, there are two numbers (e.g. 130/90 mmHg). Systolic pressure (first number) refers to the 'force' exerted on the artery walls. The diastolic pressure is a measurement taken while the heart is resting between each beat.

Scuba Diving with Hypertension

The Divers Alert Network (DAN) does not see diving as being a problematic contraindication when blood pressure is being controlled.

But, there should be no effect on exercise capacity, and no damage to the function of the heart, brain, kidneys, or blood vessels that would impose a risk of sudden incapacitation.

However, less than half of all adult Americans with hypertension actually have it under control. It also contributes to some 350,000 deaths in the United States [2009], and affects:

Pro Tip: DAN recommends that scuba divers with a heart problem should have regular blood pressure checkups with a doctor who is familiar with diving medicine.

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

The symptoms of hypertension (known as the silent killer) are not always obvious. But, typical warning signs will include persistent headaches, blurred vision, and anxiety.

Scuba divers should be more concerned if they are experiencing breathlessness or spontaneous nosebleeds. Even so, these manifestations tend to occur more often when the blood pressure is extremely elevated.

Management of Mild Hypertension

In a nutshell, smoking and diving is one to avoid. Plus, eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise will help to control mild cases of hypertension.

Even so, medication will sometimes be the only way to regulate blood pressure and keep it within the 'acceptable' limits, such as:

Medical Complications for Hypertensive Divers

So, even though you can go scuba diving with hypertension, the condition might lead to complications that can be short-term - or have long lasting implications for your health.

In extreme cases, high blood pressure increases the risk of suffering a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a stroke (a ruptured blood vessel in the brain).

But, the long-term detrimental effects of people over the age of forty who are living with elevated blood pressures, typically include:

Pro Tip: Anyone running a scuba diving business should be aware that controlled hypertension is not an absolute contraindication for scuba diving, per se. But, divers who are obese, out of shape, or older have an increased risk of suffering a cardiovascular emergency. Thus, further medical evaluation may be required before you take them diving or snorkeling.

Related Information and Help Guides

Important: The short tutorial video [2:31 seconds] presented by DAN® answers a question about a diver diagnosed with hypertension, needs to lower their cholesterol, and instructed by a doctor to thin their blood for one year.

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