With obesity levels in Europe reaching up to 20% the larger diver is more common and whilst being overweight will not prevent you from diving it does carry some extra health concerns, This month our doctors look at the real risks of diving when you are larger than the average diver.
A little bit of fat can be useful as it protects the internal organs and helps insulate against cold, what creates concern is excessive bulk and the physical and psychological stressors this creates.
First of all nitrogen just loves fat, the fattier tissues absorb a greater amount of nitrogen then other tissues, meaning that bigger divers suffer from a greater risk of decompression sickness (DCS) especially on longer or repetitive dives. The body’s natural off gassing system, primarily the lungs, becomes overwhelmed with the additional gas and this may cause bubbles to enter the tissues and circulatory system.
Secondly an increase in weight will often go hand in hand with a decline in physical fitness, although divers may find their fitness adequate for general diving, it may be insufficient to handle an emergency situation. Poor fitness may result in an inability to provide rescue for either themselves or for their buddies. Poor fitness and obesity are also contributors to diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack and stroke, all of which cause dive accidents on a yearly basis.
Lastly a bulky belly can cause discomfort when diving as it may significantly restrict the movement of the diaphragm, which can make breathing deeply difficult. Inefficient breathing can mean lower oxygen levels and higher carbon dioxide which in extreme cases can cause breathlessness, confusion, panic or at worst unconsciousness. A larger wetsuit will be more buoyant as it contains more neoprene, coupled with the extra levity of fatty tissues, divers will possibly require an uncomfortable quantity of lead.
If you are concerned about your weight contact your diving doctor and get professional guidance.
Dr. Adel Taher & Dr. Ahmed Sakr: your diving docs
If you have any medical queries please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. The most interesting one will be discussed in our next issue.
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