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diving & Senior Citizens

Discussion in 'Ask Dr. Decompression' started by plaza1, Apr 9, 2001.

  1. plaza1

    plaza1 Garibaldi

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    Hi DR. My question is for my father. After seeing a video of my wife and myself diving in belize my dad is stoked to try it. I have him set up to take training at our local dive shop, the question i have is will it be safe for a 65 year old man who is in realitivly good health to take up scuba diving? Would love to dive with him but not get him killed. any advice would be appreciated.
    Jeffery
     
  2. Dr Deco

    Dr Deco Medical Moderator Staff Member

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Issaquah [20 miles east of Seattle], Washington.
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    Dear Plaza1:

    This question should be submitted on the medical forum so that the physicians can comment on the medical aspects. Dr Deco only comments on decompression biophysics. This said, however, there is not any physiological reason why an older person cannot dive as far as decompression is concerned.

    One should bear in mind the following caveats however.

    1. Age and physical fitness

    A recent study regarding decompression gas bubble formation as measured by the Doppler bubble detection device indicated that divers with lower maximal oxygen consumption produced more bubbles following a given dive (Carturan D, Boussuges A, Burnet H, Fondarai J, Vanuxem P, Gardette B Circulating venous bubbles in recreational diving: relationships with age, weight, maximal oxygen uptake and body fat percentage. Int J Sports Med 1999 Aug; 20(6): 410-4) This is generally indicative that these people were not in as good a physical condition as the divers with higher oxygen consumptions (and lower bubble levels post surfacing).

    2. Age and DCS

    Data does seem to indicate that DCS is increased in the post 45-year-old group. This is at least as far as decompression to altitude is concerned. (Altitude decompression does not depend on gas uptake differences, since everybody is saturated with the same gas loads to begin with.)

    This may relate to capillary density in tissues (= the number of tiny blood vessels per any given volume of tissue). When the density of capillaries is reduced, the distance that the dissolved nitrogen must diffuse is increased to reach the blood stream ad be carried away. Since decompression bubble growth is a competition between bubbles and capillaries, the more capillaries (or conversely the fewer micronuclei, naturally), the better the outcome.

    Dr. Deco


     
  3. scubadoc

    scubadoc Medical Moderator

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    Hi Plaza1:

    To my knowledge there is no specified age limit to sport diving. Chronological age and physiological age can differ markedly; and each individual ticks to his own genetic clock. This having been said, most elderly divers are not capable of sustaining the work load required by all but the least physically demanding dives. The majority of elderly divers do not exercise regularly or adequately. Physical training can definitely minimize the decline in physical capacity in older divers.

    Edmonds, in 'Diving and Subaquatic medicine, p. 456. states "With increasing age, allowance must be made for a more conservative approach to diving activity as well as to restricting decompression schedules. " He goes on to recommend that allowable bottom time be reduced by 10% for every decade over the age of thirty years. (This would reduce a 60/60 dive to 36 minutes for the 70 year old diver)

    Older divers have a higher incidence of chronic diseases; i.e., cardiovascular disease and chronic lung disease. Atherosclerosis affects the blood flow to the brain, heart, kidneys and limb muscles and therefore the function of these organs. Appropriate screening evaluations of the heart and
    coronary arteries with exercise testing is useful in older divers before instituting a diving program.

    Edmonds also states on p. 161, that "age increases DCS incidence, possibly due to impaired perfusion (blood supply) or to already damaged vessels being more susceptible to other flow interferences." Joint abnormalities also increase the likelihood of bubbling in the aged. In aviation statistics, a 28 year old has twice the likelihood of DCS as an 18 year old. (Elderly 28 yo?)

    In Bove's 'Diving Medicine', p. 156, it is stated that "Greater age is cited as a risk factor in 11 early reports of increased risk for DCs, but that 3 recent reports found no association." Bove also states that aging increases the percentage of fat, decreases the ability of the diver to cope with hypothermia and exercise stress and increases the risks from the effects of atherosclerosis. (p.111).

    DAN's report on DCS and Diving fatalities for 2000, page 59, reports mean diver age at time of death has risen steadily from 1989 to 1997. The same publication reports that over 50% of reported diving injuries (DCS, AGE) were in divers over the age of 40 - but few over the age of sixty.

    My personal feelings are that if GCFD is in good physical condition and is mentally alert enough to do adequate problem solving at depth, then I would personally have no qualms in certifying him to dive - with reductions in his bottom times and depths, warm water, adequate assistance for entries and exits and a knowledgeable 'buddy' or dive master.

    scubadoc (GCFD = geezer, codger, fogey, duffer)
    70+ year old Boy Scout

    More on Age and Diving our web site at http://www.scuba-doc.com/agediv.html
     

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