With scuba diving becoming more popular and widespread, it is important to go for regular health checks and maintain one's fitness levels so as not to suffer a heart attack underwater.
Cardiac issues have become a leading factor in diving fatalities, according to a study. Hence, older scuba divers have been advised to have regular fitness assessments with their doctors and cut down on factors that can increase one's risk of suffering a heart attack when diving.
Although it is mandatory to be screened for fitness and have one's dive skills certified prior to being issued a C-Card, such certification lasts a lifetime.
Lead author Dr Peter Buzzacott from the University of Western Australia elaborated, "This is where we see an increase in risk. It's not commonly new divers who have health problems, because they have been recently screened. It is older divers who have not looked after their health."
"Divers who learned to dive years ago and who are now old and overweight, with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, are at increased risk of dying."
Dr Peter Buzzacott
Previous studies on cardiovascular risk factors have been focussed on members of dive clubs or insured divers. This is the first study conducted among divers in the general population in the United State.
The study focussed on 113,892 people who indicated scuba diving as their main activity in the Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), and 338,933 active people (not part of the BRFSS) who did not name scuba diving as their main activity.
The press release on the study reveals: "A significantly greater proportion of divers (54%) had smoked cigarettes at some point compared with non-divers (46%) but more divers had given up smoking (40% versus 26%). Divers were more frequently overweight (48% versus 43%) but had lower mean body mass index overall than the non-divers (26 versus 27 kg/m2). One-third of divers (33%) had been diagnosed with high blood pressure and 30% had high cholesterol - levels that were not statistically different from the comparison group.
And the doctor's advice? "My personal advice to all smokers is to give up smoking and take up diving. Not only is it better for you, and more fun, it's cheaper!"
Findings of the study was recently published in the journal European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.