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February 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 28, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Middle-Age Women and DCS

are they at higher risk of getting the bends?

from the February, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Every diver must be concerned about decompression sickness, especially as we age. The 50-year old body is not a 30-year-old body; and a 70-year-old body is not a 50-year-old body. But women divers, it seems, have a special set of issues associated with menopause. As a longtime diver, divemaster and middleaged woman, I've met more than a half dozen 50-plus women who've been diagnosed with DCS. I've seen numerous cases in Cozumel, where I dive every year. All these women claim to have been bent while staying within the recreational dive limits. We know fitness and aging are important factors in the DCS equation. But the question that interested me is whether aging women face additional risks as their bodies change with menopause.

Undercurrent ran a story in 2006 about research done on women divers and their menstrual cycles ( www.undercurrent.org/UCnow/dive_magazine/2006/MenstrualCycles200608.html ). But what do we know today about menopause and its possible effects on DCS risks? "There are no answers," says Neal Pollock, research director at Divers Alert Network. "We have a very tiny research budget and staff, and there are a lot of questions." Of course, there are researchers elsewhere with an interest in the topic, though it doesn't seem to be getting much attention....



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