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Scuba Diving Knows No Age

Healthy older divers are still safe in the ocean's depths, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 4, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Don't let age sink your love for diving.

Undersea diving is safe for older divers, says a Duke University Medical Center study in the February issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology.

The study says that as long as older divers stay healthy, the normal age-related decline in pulmonary function isn't significant enough to prevent them from continuing their hobby.

The Duke researchers used hyperbaric chambers to simulate dives to a depth of 60 feet. The study included 20 volunteers, with half ranging in age from 19 to 39 and the rest ranging in age from 58 to 74. They all had healthy hearts and lungs.

The researchers took measurements of gas levels in the bloodstream of the divers at rest and during exertion while they were in the hyperbaric chambers.

Specifically, the researchers examined the effect of age on the body's ability to balance oxygen and carbon monoxide levels under pressures that would be experienced during normal dives. They found clinically insignificant differences in the levels of retained carbon dioxide when they compared the older and younger volunteers.

Carbon dioxide retention is a major safety issue for divers. It can cause mental confusion, seizures and, in extreme cases, loss of consciousness.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about diving safety.

SOURCE: Duke University Medical Center, news release, Feb. 4, 2003
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