Can You Scuba Dive With High Blood Pressure?

Last Updated: February 10, 2023

High blood pressure (hypertension) can sometimes be stressful to deal with, and although one can live a fulfilling and fun life with this condition, it is important to be sure if can you scuba dive with high blood pressure.

Scuba diving can on rare occasions cause rare health complications such as immersion pulmonary oedema, making scuba diving risky for those suffering with hypertension. However, with proper precautions and clearance from a doctor, you can scuba dive with high blood pressure.

Increased risk is a factor to consider when preparing for any potentially strenuous activity. Thanks to careful research, this article will equip you to understand the effects scuba diving can have on blood pressure.

Does Scuba Diving Increase Blood Pressure?

high blood pressure

One of the main concerns when considering scuba diving is whether or not it increases blood pressure. The answer is, yes, scuba diving does increase blood pressure by a small amount.

Healthy divers may not notice the increase though. When diving, the human body is under outward pressure from the water it is submerged in. This causes the amount of blood in your chest to increase as the body moves blood from the legs to the chest.

Because blood is in the chest, your heart will begin enlarging its four chambers to take in the higher volume of blood. This means your blood pressure will increase, in turn, as the heart works to move more blood than usual throughout the body.

If you already have high blood pressure, the receptors in your body that detect changes in blood pressure may react more strongly to the natural enlargement of your heart while diving. This is one of the reasons scuba divers with high blood pressure should consult a doctor before taking the plunge.

What Happens to Your Blood When You Dive?

When you dive, your blood is responding to the effects of being immersed in water, the effects of the cold, and the effects of pressure from the water itself. Typically, these effects are not too much for a healthy human body to handle and adapt to.

  • Effects of being immersed: The pressure coming from outside the body causes blood to move from the legs to the chest cavity and the heart to take in more blood. Because of this, the receptors in your body noticing the higher blood pressure may alert the brain to slow the heart rate.
  • Effects of being cold: As your body loses heat due to the water, your blood vessels will narrow. That is yet another factor which contributes to more blood being sent to the heart while you dive, and an overall increase of the heart’s labor as it tries to keep you warm.
  • Effects of pressure: As pressure increases outside of the body, the heart will pump more blood and increase blood pressure inside of the body, too.

Potential Risks of Diving With High Blood Pressure

Though your blood experiences natural responses to the effects of diving, and your body is equipped to handle these responses, there are some implications and risks to diving with high blood pressure.

  1. Immersion Pulmonary Oedema – A rare condition where a buildup of fluid on the lungs cased by being immersed, can make the diver short of breath and even become fatal. The risk of immersion pulmonary oedema is increased if you have high blood pressure.
  2. Heart Attack or Stroke – Your blood pressure is a major factor in your risk for a heart attack or stroke. Diving necessarily causes already-high blood pressure to rise a little bit more, elevating the risk of heart attack or stroke in turn.
  3. Hypertension Medication Complications – If you do have high blood pressure, you may be taking beta blockers. Beta blockers decrease a body’s tolerance for exercise and can cause difficulty breathing, which is important for a diver to avoid.

So, Can I Dive With High Blood Pressure?

The body’s blood pressure goes through natural reflex to being immersed in cold water during scuba diving. Typically, these reflexes are normal and the human body can adjust safely. However, one of the responses is the increase of blood pressure.

If you already have high blood pressure, any more of an increase could cause health issues such as immersion pulmonary oedema, or an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Check with your doctor before scuba diving if you have hypertension.

A doctor will likely put you through a series of tests to see whether or not you can handle being elevated by the natural effects scuba diving has on the body. Your doctor will also be able to tell if any medication you’re taking, like beta blockers, might cause breathing restrictions while diving.

In conclusion, if you have high blood pressure, you can scuba dive. Simply make sure you schedule a visit with your doctor to evaluate the risks before diving.

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