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ISSUE 1 ARCHIVE - CAN I DIVE WITH...

Asthma

The problem with asthma is that it is a lung disease that causes the airways to tighten up during an asthma attack. When you are breathing air at depth whilst diving, that air assumes the pressure of the surrounding water, so it is higher the deeper you go. If this air were to become trapped as the airways constrict during an asthma attack, it will expand as the diver ascends to the surface and cause lung damage. So you see the dangers of a poorly controlled asthmatic diving. In some countries there is a blanket ban on any asthmatic diving at all. However in the UK we are a bit more realistic. The diagnosis of this condition falls into a broad church. It ranges from the person that wheezes after a light jog, to someone who once had it in childhood, but still carries the diagnosis into a trouble free adulthood. The rules in this country are that a well controlled asthmatic has as much risk of lung problems underwater as a smoker, and they are allowed to dive. With such a wide range of asthma sufferers then you see how it is possible for many of them to dive. If your dive doctor feels your lungs are fine after testing them with a lung function test called spirometry then you may be fine to dive after all.
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High blood pressure

Blood pressure is a figure made up of 2 readings. It is expressed as the systolic pressure, the amount of work the heart has to do to pump the blood around the body, over the diastolic pressure, an indication of the pressure needed to refill the heart. A normal reading is about 140/80. The higher your blood pressure the more risk there is of heart attack and stroke. This would be potentially fatal underwater, so there are rules that govern diving and blood pressure. If a BP exceeds 160/100 then you are barred from diving. But a lot of readings can be artificially high when you rush in to see the doctor, or the process of seeing your GP is enough to raise it, so called "white coat hypertension". So make sure several readings are taken before you are landed with this diagnosis. If it is high and you are desperate to dive, then weight loss, exercise and medication can reduce the pressure and allow you to dive after all. Some medications are better than others though, so stay away from beta blockers, e.g. atenolol, as they can affect the lungs whilst diving. Try one of the newer tablets like losartan as they are safer.
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