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Diving and Cardiovascular Risk Factors

CARDIOVASCULAR RISK FACTORS (includes High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol, Smoking)

We get lots of enquiries from people who have been put on medication to lower their blood pressure and / or cholesterol .

These medications are used to reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. These medications are used as ‘Primary Prevention’ if the high blood pressure / cholesterol was found routinely or randomly and as ‘Secondary Prevention’ if the medications are used after a condition like a stroke / mini-stroke / angina / heart attack has occurred.

 If you are taking these medications for Secondary Prevention, please also refer to the section on your main condition.

If you are taking your medications for Primary Prevention, are otherwise in good health, stable on your medication, suffer no troublesome side effects and your blood pressure and cholesterol are well controlled, you should be OK to dive. You will need to have your medical form assessed by a dive doctor who will likely want to know your cardiovascular risk scores  (sometimes called QRISK or Framingham Risk) and details of your last blood pressures, blood tests (cholesterol and kidney function), weight and smoking status. Your GP will be able to provide this information and it will help the dive doctor to make a decision.

There is an increased risk of a condition called immersion pulmonary oedema in those with high blood pressure. This is caused by an alteration of the fluid loads on the heart from the combination of submersion in water and high blood pressure. It is a rare condition and is difficult to predict and results in fluid build up on the lungs and difficulty breathing. It usually has to be treated in hospital as an emergency and can mean you have to abort a dive suddenly which increases your risk of DCI. For this reason, some doctors may limit your medical if they feel you are at increased risk of this.

Please also see sections on ‘Smoking’ and ‘Obesity’.


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