Should You Scuba Dive With Low Blood Pressure?

Should You Scuba Dive With Low Blood Pressure?

The excitement is bubbling up slowly within you. For the first time in a couple of years, the opportunity for a holiday somewhere warm and sunny is finally arriving – in a little over a week, you will be hitting the tropical waters and going for some much deserved Scuba Diving.

As it has been so long since you last went for a dive, you do the sensible thing and head to your local doctor for a medical checkup just to make sure you can hit the water straight away.

The doctor calls you in to sit down after some routine tests and lets you know you are all healthy except – your blood pressure is low. Your eyes narrow and you try to think ‘will this affect me being able to Scuba?’

The doctor, seeing your reaction starts talking ‘so with low blood pressure, you will have to be careful of some things that may make you feel lightheaded or dizzy, but when it comes to Scuba Diving – you are all good to go, in fact, diving may even be beneficial to helping your blood pressure’

This article will discuss:

  • Low Blood Pressure 
  • Diving and Heart Conditions
  • Medical Conditions Preventing Scuba diving 
  • Risks of Scuba Diving

Does Water Pressure Affect Low Blood Pressure?

Scuba Diving increases the pressure exerted on our bodies. If you have Low Blood Pressure, the increased pressure can actually help bring it back to normal levels. Although only temporary, the increased circulation can have positive long term effects. 

As we well know, heading under the water exerts pressure on our bodies and the deeper we go the more pressure we will feel. For those of us who are avid Scuba Divers, we also know that pressure itself, along with the gasses we breathe and their percentages and pressures, can all affect our bodies in various ways.

We are used to learning and mitigating the adverse effects of pressure, but what about the positive effects?

Pressure when diving is constant with depth. This means that our whole body is having the same pressure exerted on it everywhere at each level.

Some parts of the body, like our bones, can take longer to adjust, while others like all our soft tissues can adjust and equalize quickly.

It makes sense that this water pressure will affect our blood pressure. So when our Blood Pressure is Low – the external water pressure is actually helping it back up to normal levels.

While this is temporary, the overall increase in blood circulation that Scuba Diving provides will have a gradual and positive effect on your Low Blood Pressure, making it safe and even encouraging for people who suffer from this medical condition.

Under pressure, your muscles all have to work a little harder. This requires more oxygen, and your blood vessels dilate wider to allow more blood to flow to your muscles, stabilising your whole system.

Scuba diving as a whole has been proven to have many positive health effects on our bodies both physiologically and psychologically.

Not only is our blood circulation improved, but Scuba Diving can also both help increase Low Blood Pressure and even assist in reducing high blood pressure by stabilising our entire circulatory system during a dive.

Our muscles strength and flexibility are increased every time we dive, from setting up and carrying our equipment to the actual physical exercise we undertake when we dive or surface swim all help our bodies.

While it may be uncomfortable for you to swim against that current – your legs are getting a workout, which will only strengthens them in the long run.

When we head underwater, most of us feel a sense of freedom and being somewhere otherworldly. This has a super positive effect on us, decreasing our normal stresses from life. Scuba Diving therefore provides benefits to our emotional wellbeing. 

I bet you can agree… Scuba Diving is like meditating!

Not only that but Scuba Diving is also great at increasing your overall concentration capacity! It requires planning, getting your equipment ready, entering the water, descending, staying with your group, checking with your buddy and navigating.

Not to forget all the things we routinely do underwater, in addition to dealing with unforeseen circumstances!

Even the small things in Scuba can make a difference to your overall wellbeing! Things such as meeting new and likeminded people, seeing some beautiful sights both under and on top of the water and learning new aspects of the ocean.

There are even small positive effects of saltwater on little cuts and abrasions and our overall skin health.

As this article is discussing medical advice, please understand this is general information only. If you have low blood pressure, it’s best to talk to a doctor who understands the effects of Scuba Diving on your body so you can fully understand what is safe and what is not. 

If your pressure is so low that you often pass out or have dizzy spells – then it may not be the best activity for you.

This goes for any medical condition – if you have any doubt, please consult your doctor before proceeding.

Can You Scuba Dive If You Have a Heart Condition?

A heart condition might not always stop you from Scuba Diving. However, if you suffer from a heart condition, it is strongly advised that you consult your doctor before Scuba Diving.

With Scuba Diving – it is generally a low-impact and low-intensity activity, but there can be times when the intensity exponentially increases.

Strong currents, wind and waves or even animal encounters can require an intense physical reaction to deal with. 

If you suffer from blood pressure issues, then Scuba Diving can assist as we have discussed. But if you have issues with raised heart rates or the stress physical activity has on your body, then it may not be the best activity for you.

Having issues on a deep dive far out to sea does not sound like a great idea…

If your doctor allows you to dive, this is awesome! But it would be a good idea to dive in shallow waters and sheltered bays with zero currents. This allows for the safest environment while still enjoying yourself and the other benefits of Scuba Diving.

What Medical Conditions Can Stop You From Scuba Diving?

There are a few medical conditions than can stop you from Scuba diving, such as asthma, epilepsy, lung issues, being under the influence of alcohol or drugs and even suffering from a cold or flu. 

However, Scuba diving is a very inclusive sport and accessible to many people. You do not need to be an athlete, but just like any sport, you need to be healthy.

Those of us who Scuba Dive are well versed in filling out the medical form almost every time we head out. It’s a necessary requirement for the dive shop to cover itself, but mostly for you to identify if anything has medically changed.

Over the years, your health is likely to change! A medical form allows you to refresh your memory and determine if you now have one of the conditions that can stop you from Scuba Diving in the first place.

Unfortunately, not everyone can Scuba dive regardless of how much you may want to. A large percentage of the population can undertake the training or an experience but some conditions are just flat out show stoppers.

Traditionally – asthma has been the big one that will exclude a person from Scuba Diving. 

When a person has an asthma attack, they are unable to breathe in or out. So if they are at depth and under pressure, they won’t be able to surface without breathing out the air in their lungs.

(Remember, air expands as we ascend, which can cause Lung Injuries if you do not equalise the airspace in your lungs!)

This is obviously a big issue and while there are guidelines for asthmatics to be able to Scuba Dive, there are quite a few rules around it that have to be conducted. 

Other conditions that can also prevent a person from Scuba Diving include: Epilepsy, as a person may have a seizure while diving and lose cognitive functions; severe colds, Influenza or Nasal Congestion as you will not be able to equalize and this can result in ear issues or even a reverse block.

You also cannot Scuba Dive with conditions that affect breathing such as Lung Issues, Pneumonia or COVID. You should also never dive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as you cannot make sound decisions.

What are the risks of Scuba diving?

Risks of Scuba Diving include: health risks (which can be avoided through training and safety), marine animal bite and stings, and boat injuries. The biggest risks Scuba Divers face with the highest severity, are Decompression Sickness and Pulmonary Embolisms

Just with everything, Scuba Diving has risks. It should come as no surprise that an activity where you head down into an environment we cannot breathe in, walk around in or even see properly would pose some risks to our health, and Scuba diving doesn’t disappoint! 

While when done correctly, Scuba Diving is one of the safest sports or recreational activities you can undertake, there will obviously be some dangers.

Although we take many precautions to make Scuba Diving safe, accidents happen. Which is why you need travel insurance for Scuba diving!

The Scuba Diving Open Water Course teaches you the risks of Scuba Diving and Marine life, and the many precautions to reduce these risks. You learn so much during your Scuba Diving courses, which is why you cannot teach yourself to Scuba dive.

Animal encounters or attacks are usually foremost on people’s minds, especially sharks! However, shark attacks are actually pretty rare. They are even more uncommon for Scuba Divers, as we simply don’t look like an appetising meal to a big hungry shark.

A diver is more likely to be stung by a jellyfish (you can wear a wetsuit to mitigate this), than any other issue with sea life. Even then, jellyfish can vary from life-threatening to a very mild almost unnoticeable sting.

Boats and boat propellers, fishing gear, along with other man-made objects in or on the water can all pose a hazard to a person or a diver under the water. Busy dive sites or busy waterways should be avoided.

By being aware of your surroundings and using the appropriate safety measures (such as a Surface Marker Buoy), these issues should never pose a serious risk.

Pressure injuries pose the most severe risks. When you learn to dive and then learn to deep dive, you are taught all about pressure and the effects it can have on the human body – which are numerous and varied.

Issues can occur when we go outside of the recommended or planned boundaries of depth and time. 

Diving computers can mitigate some of this, or even give you instructions on what to do if this happens. But if you go too deep, stay down for too long or surface too quickly, then you risk a number of issues.

You could experience a pulmonary embolism (a hole in your lung) by surfacing too fast, decompression sickness from staying down for too long, Nitrogen narcosis from diving too deep, or oxygen toxicity from breathing oxygen at depth.

I know what you are thinking… that all sounds like a lot! However, all of these are very uncommon as divers complete a lot of training to mitigate the chances of all these dangers from happening.

It is important to understand the risks beforehand, so you can learn how to prevent them and handle any unforeseen circumstances.

Scuba diving is a very safe and widely enjoyed sport or recreational activity. It has risks and some medical conditions can affect your ability to enjoy it. But the most important thing is to know the risks, and if you have medical conditions, seek advice from your doctor beforehand.

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:

DiveAssure

Diver Alert Network (DAN)

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Final Thoughts

If you have low blood pressure and you are worried about diving, hopefully this article has put your mind at ease. Although you should always get your doctors advice, it is possible to Scuba Dive with Low Blood Pressure.

Make sure you do not suffer from any of the heart or medical conditions that could prevent you from Scuba Diving. Enjoy the pleasures of discovering the underwater world, and the long term health benefits it can provide!

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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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