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June 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 44, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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A DAN Survey on Diver Fitness: Is Your Liver as Healthy as your Heart and Lungs?

from the June, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

You may be fit enough to float about neutrally buoyant and relaxed, but what if things go wrong? It's the unexpected event that will test your physical fitness and response: e.g., the buddy who suddenly finds he has no air, or the sudden down-current you weren't expecting, the difficult access to a boat in an angry sea state that deteriorated while you were diving, an unexpectedly long surface swim, the sea krait that slips between you and your BC, or that pesky titan triggerfish that comes at you head on and grabs your fin.

It's crises such as these that will test your wellbeing, your heart and your fitness to dive.

To determine just how fit divers are, DAN, the Divers Alert Network, surveyed the health of its members, noting that the average age of their divers is aging and with aging comes ailments that affect diving. They have just released data on their 2011 survey and discovered that DAN members are healthier than the equivalent segment of the U.S., and are more fit than their nondiving peers.

However, "the study comparing cardiac autopsy findings of diving-related fatalities to motor-vehicle fatalities suggested that diving-related fatalities had higher heart mass and left ventricular wall thickness than motor-vehicle fatalities, highlighting the role of cardiovascular disorders in diving fatalities."

While some countries (UK, Australia, and France, among others) mandate an annual health check for sport divers, it is not so in the land of the free, where many people resent mandates. But American divers should not be complacent about their health, especially since it not only affects them, but also people with whom they dive (if you have a heart attack diving, someone goes to great risk to deal with you).

DAN respondents proved older than the general population, but both healthier and wealthier. No surprise about income. Scuba diving travel is expensive in more ways than one.

DAN divers tended to be Caucasian, well-educated and employed. They were more physically active than the general population, with fewer smokers, and more likely to get regular health check-ups. Yet, they were fatter than the average American, however less obese (a step up from fat).

Diving is a sport that heavy people can enjoy since they become weightless, provided they take it easy and don't get themselves into circumstances demanding hard work. Furthermore, the study says they don't visit the doctor often enough, and both toting heavy equipment out of the water and the possible stress of the unexpected underwater increases the risk of a cardiac event.

But, perhaps the big news of the DAN survey is that, compared to the general population, divers are more likely to be heavy drinkers, which carries its own physical risk.

Maybe that rule about the first drink of the day meaning you've done your last dive of the day should be extended to the first drink of the month?

Ranapurwala SI, Kucera KL, Denoble PJ (2018) The healthy diver: A cross-sectional survey to evaluate the health status of recreational scuba diver members of Divers Alert Network (DAN). PLoS ONE 13(3): e0194380.

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