There are currently between 2.7 and 3.5 million active scuba divers in the USA, according to a report by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. Scuba diving is not only a relaxing activity, but also one that boasts many physical and mental health benefits, and many more people are now taking it up as a sport. Although scuba is generally considered low-risk, there are certain individuals who are at a greater risk of encountering a problem while diving. This includes anyone who has had a heart attack or anyone who is living with cardiac disease. While it may not be necessary to give up on diving altogether, there are definitely a number of health and safety guidelines to follow to ensure you remain as safe in the water as possible.
Take it easy after a heart attack
Although health-related scuba deaths are rare, heart conditions are responsible for up to 30% of these. In order to resume diving after a heart attack, it is therefore very important to first make sure that your heart is strong enough to endure the physical stress of a dive. Don’t take to the water before you have been given the all-clear by your doctor, who will likely perform an exercise stress test and echocardiogram. Even if your medical team does give you the green light to go diving, always take extra care, and pay close attention to your body for any warning signs of a secondary attack. The same guidelines are applicable to anyone who wants to get back in the water following heart surgery.
Be mindful of possible hereditary conditions
Apart from heart attacks and cardiac surgery, scuba divers also have to be mindful of hereditary heart conditions and the impact they may have on their lives. Although there are a number of hereditary heart conditions that don’t pose an immediate danger to divers, those that can result in sudden cardiac arrest are a cause for concern. Structural and electrical cardiac defects such as cardiomyopathy and Long QT Syndrome can cause sudden cardiac arrest in both children and adults. If there is a known history of these or other hereditary heart diseases, it is vital that a diver follows professional medical advice at all times.
Focus on leading a heart-healthy lifestyle
Apart from working closely with their medical team, scuba divers with known cardiac concerns can also make the effort to improve their overall wellbeing and boost their chances of returning to the water. Giving up smoking and alcohol consumption is a given when you have heart disease. Following a heart-friendly diet and engaging in regular exercise is also very important to both cardiac patients and divers. If you are a scuba diver with a heart problem, it is doubly important.
Living with cardiac disease does not necessarily mark the end of your diving. By working closely with your medical team and staying healthy, you may soon find yourself exploring the oceans again.