Should you Scuba Dive with High Blood Pressure?

Should you Scuba Dive with High Blood Pressure?

It is not something you can generally feel until it becomes a problem for your health, but high blood pressure and its resulting condition of hypertension can be a serious health risk. It’s a sneaky one that many people do not realize what they have until they are confronted by their doctor’s frown as the blood pressure monitor is clearly showing them something they do not like. 

We cannot actually ‘feel’ high blood pressure, so many people opt not to worry about it, carry on with their normal routines or maybe drink some green tea every day and think that’s enough. For many people this may even be enough, but some activities like Scuba diving or skydiving take you into a different environment that involves pressure.

In this article, we will discuss the effects of Scuba diving on our blood pressure, and: 

  • Diving with high blood pressure
  • Scuba diving’s effect on blood pressure
  • Can you Scuba dive if you have a heart condition?
  • Diving with High Cholesterol

Can I Scuba dive if I Have High Blood Pressure?

In a nutshell – yes you can go Scuba diving with high blood pressure. This is dependent on your high blood pressure being correctly managed, and your doctor approves you to dive. So if I have high blood pressure, should I go diving where there will be more pressure on my body?

Generally, if you are over a certain age and/or you have medical issues, you should always get medical clearance from a doctor before Scuba diving. There are some medical conditions that can prevent you from Scuba diving, but high blood pressure, unless severe, is not one of them. 

What is blood pressure? 

Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood pulses through the arteries of your circulatory system and it is measuring two levels of pressure: systolic and diastolic, which is why blood pressure readings always come as two numbers.

Quite simply, all circulatory system is one big network of arteries, veins, capillaries and organs.

The circulatory system’s main function is to transport oxygen and nutrients around your body to feed your muscles and remove some waste products and Carbon Dioxide.

Systolic blood pressure is the point at which your heart contracts to pump blood through your system and is the higher number of the two. Diastolic blood pressure is the point where the heart relaxes between pumps, which is the lower number.

These numbers now point to high and low pressure and the range between them for your doctor to determine quickly if you have any major health issues.

This is why taking blood pressure is one of the first things that happens to you when you go to the hospital or a doctor for a check-up – it gives the medical professionals a quick idea if they need to start looking at other issues in your body. 

A normal range would be 120/80 or there about. Someone is considered at risk when their pressure levels range from 120-139/80-89 and if your blood pressure is above 140/90 – you have hypertension. Low blood pressure is the opposite and called Hypotension and has a pressure range of 90/60 or lower.

Another important thing to understand is that your blood pressure can change quickly. It is affected by caffeine, stress, alcohol and exercise especially. So it’s important to have at least two readings in order to ensure you are getting the right figures and our daily figures can fluctuate by 20%.

You can’t feel this pressure, so why does it matter?

Elevated blood pressure actually puts stress on your body from your heart to your brain, things are a little elevated.

This can eventually lead to other serious illnesses such as a heart attack or a stroke down the road if the problem is not mitigated.

How does Scuba diving Directly affect Blood Pressure?

Sinking deeper underwater increases the pressure exerted on our bodies, increasing oxygen levels and causing Vasoconstriction. This elevates your blood pressure but lowers your heart rate, stabilising your system.

When we Scuba dive, we start to increase the external pressure on our bodies from the water. Our bodies have evolved to live on the surface of our planet and all the air molecules ranging from the edge of space to the surface of the ocean put pressure on our bodies. This is called one atmosphere or 1ATM. 

As water is denser than air and therefore contains a high concentration of molecules – it exerts even more pressure onto our bodies and only 10m of sea water equals that same as our atmosphere. With every 10m of water, the pressure increases by 1 bar. 

When a recreational diver goes down to 10m of depth, they experience 1ATM and an additional bar of pressure.

Therefore, moving from the surface to 10m depth, the pressure doubles!

Our bodies adjust quite well to this which is good – but is adding more pressure to high blood pressure not bad?Luckily, no! With both low and high blood pressure – the extra pressure exerted on our bodies by the water actually has a stabilizing effect on our circulatory system. 

External pressure is a constant, it exerts the same pressure all over our bodies and our bodies react in different ways. We stabilise this pressure in our ears first, blocking our nose and blowing. Non-divers would have experienced this when flying. Other parts of our bodies react differently and at different times to compensate.

As our circulatory system is stabilised – there are positive effects of bringing our blood pressure closer to its normal range and there are indications that this lasts long after the dive is over, meaning Scuba diving actually has a positive effect on high blood pressure in some regards.

Unfortunately, it’s never that simple! Most people with high blood pressure tend to have some of the following additional issues that can pose health risks to diving: having a high body mass index, having high cholesterol levels, being diabetic, a smoker, a heavy drinker or even just being a man.

These additional health issues need to be considered when determining if you are healthy enough to Scuba dive.

Indeed a combination of these issues can lead to having a heart attack or stroke underwater, having the small blood vessels in your eyes and kidneys damaged, an immersion pulmonary oedema (fluid on the lungs) which causes shortness of breath, chest pain and a cough and can be fatal. None of this sounds good at all!

It is always recommended that you see a doctor regularly and especially before you plan on Scuba diving often, whether on holiday or every second weekend. Let your doctor determine how high your risks are and how you can mitigate them as everyone is different.

Only then will you have the peace of mind to go out and enjoy Scuba, as it should be!

Can you Scuba dive if you have a heart condition?

If you have a heart condition, you might still be able to Scuba dive, if it is not serious and/or is managed. You should be checked by a doctor before Scuba diving, to get a health exam to ensure you are healthy enough to dive. However, you might be limited to depth and conditions, due to tiredness and fatigue. 

If you suffer from other cardiovascular problems then Scuba diving can become riskier, but not necessarily a show stopper. If the condition is managed with drugs that do not affect you in other ways such as dizziness or light-headedness, you may be able to dive. 

Generally, you would be able to undertake shallower dives in a sheltered bay with no current or any large waves with a dive professional that understands your limitations. Unfortunately, the option of deep diving with strong currents will likely be off the table for you.

If you have a heart condition of any type, the best advice is to see your doctor before heading out to do any diving.

How can I reduce my high blood pressure?

You can reduce your high blood pressure by improving your lifestyle, eating a balanced healthy diet and exercising. Other things that help, include reducing alcohol intake, quitting smoking and possibly prescribed medication. 

There are many ways to reduce your blood pressure and it’s mostly based around improving your lifestyle. The best thing to start with is to reduce your sodium intake across your whole diet. Eating less processed foods will help with both sodium and sugar, along with all those E numbers and chemicals. 

Losing weight through diet and exercise is a sure way to reduce your blood pressure and increase your overall health.

Exercising a minimum of 150 minutes a week or 30mins a day will significantly reduce the risk of heart disease.

Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink will also have a positive effect. One drink for women and two drinks for men per day has shown to decrease blood pressure, however as soon as you start drinking more the opposite effect will occur.

Quitting smoking should be a no brainer, but not always the easiest thing to do. Every cigarette increases your blood pressure during and after you consume it and the long-lasting effects of smoking are now well documented.

Reducing stress is now seen as a major factor in reducing blood pressure, however, this may not be the easiest thing to do. Combining a healthy diet and exercise, avoiding stress triggers and focusing on things you can control in your life are great ways to reduce stress!

Lowering stress levels can be as simple as expressing gratitude to people.

Getting support from family and friends is also a good way to reduce your overall stress levels by decreasing emotional issues that you may not have even realized were a problem.

You can also look into purchasing a monitor at home to regularly check your blood pressure levels and work out what things increase your pressure and what things don’t. Simply eating at different times of the day can help some people.

Lastly, there are medications that can be prescribed by your doctor to help manage your pressure. There are side effects with most people, so trying the lifestyle factors first or in conjunction with medication is recommended. 

Can I Scuba dive if I have high cholesterol?

You can Scuba dive with high cholesterol, but it is advised to get cleared by your doctor beforehand. High cholesterol, unless extreme, should not cause any serious medical issues while Scuba diving.

While this is not a direct heart condition – cholesterol in our blood can have positive and negative effects on our heart, depending on the type of cholesterol. There are low density and high-density types in your blood and it’s the low-density type called low-density lipoprotein (LDL) that can cause issues such as a heart attack or a stroke underwater – which would likely prove fatal.

Again, it’s going to depend in the level of your LDL and what effects this is having on your body as everyone is different.

There is a good chance that even with elevated LDL you won’t be at any serious risks while Scuba diving.

But remember, with serious medical conditions – you need to go to your doctor to determine if you are fit enough to dive.

Don’t Forget Your Dive Insurance!

Before you go out on any dive trip or holiday, it is essential to make sure you have insurance that covers you if something goes wrong. Check out our dive insurance article for more information.

Or go straight to these dive insurance company websites:


Diver Alert Network (DAN)

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Final thoughts

You can Scuba dive if you have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but it is always best to get cleared by a doctor before Scuba diving! There are many ways to reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, including eating healthily and exercising.

You do not need to be an athlete to be a Scuba diver, but it is important to be healthy, just like any sport. 

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Paul Fulbrook

Paul Fulbrook is a writer, scuba diver, ex-science teacher and marine biologist. He has a passion for coral reef biology, diving on coral reefs and writing about diving. He also loves cats and his children (sometimes).

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