The Aging Diver
Age-related physical limitations
- Reduced physical fitness
- Reduced strength and endurance
- Altered lung function
- Increased reaction times
- Reduced cold resistance
Risks To The Cardiovascular System
- Fluid shift into the body core
- Constriction of the blood vessels of the skin
- Significant increase of urine excretion
These immersion effects are especially risky for the cardiovascular system. The fluid shift into the centre of the body forces the heart to suddenly pump more. If skin circulation is reduced as well, the heart has to work against an even higher resistance. Possible direct consequences are:
- Acute hypertension
- Circulatory disorders of the heart
- Triggering cardiac arrhythmias
- Acute breathlessness
Risks For Lung and Respiration
Special Attention During Medical Examination
Advice For Safe Diving At An Advanced Age
- choose shorter and shallower dives
- respect safety stops and use slow ascent rates
- reduce repetitive dives
- use nitrox instead of air as breathing gas
- do suitable age-adapted sports activities with focus on endurance and muscle strength
- sufficient hydration before diving TIP: good salivation is a sign of fluid balance
- do not challenge your physical performance limits intentionally
- avoid stress by diving relaxed
- slide into the water to minimise the acute immersion effects
- the individual cold protection should be designed that even a slight chill is avoided
Answers To FAQs of Older Divers
It is the biological age that counts, not the actual age. Starting at the age of 40 the annual medical examination for diving fitness should be more thorough and even more focussed on the “older diver” beyond the age of 55.
When should I stop going diving?
Your body will tell you. The actual age is not decisive. When it comes to health, when the body sends its own signals that diving feels burdensome or staying underwater feels unpleasant, then the time has come to reconsider.
Should I dive more conservatively?
Yes, it is strongly encouraged. There are a number of recommendations for safe diving. These should definitely be considered by older divers.
Are older divers more susceptible to decompression sickness?
Not necessarily. However, they can significantly reduce their risk of decompression illness by proper hydration before diving. Changes in the lungs at a higher age theoretically increase the risk. This risk can be reduced by ascending slowly and the use of safety stops.
Is there a greater risk of cardiovascular problems?
Unfortunately, yes. The immersion effects cannot be denied. In otherwise still compensated cardiovascular diseases they can become the straw that breaks the camel’s back, especially when unexpected events lead to sudden physical and mental stress.
Interesting, though mostly pretty well established advice. One point I would like more information on is the statement: "Even in experienced divers, usually less than 5% of the body energy will go to the fin" Can you point me to the reference for this claim? This is an astonishingly low efficiency, and I would like to read up on the context. My personal experience suggests otherwise, as my effort changes significantly with the speed I travel underwater. I would guess that this refers to divers who are not trying to get anywhere, and are just casually idling around the reef, but no doubt the study will specify. Cheers,
How are you defining biological age, and how is one supposed to measure it?