Japanese female pearl divers called Ama specialize in free diving in the cold sea for collecting foods and pearls in oysters. Exercising in the water combined with marked bradycardia and pressor responses provides a circulatory challenge to properly buffer or cushion elevated cardiac pulsations. Because Ama perform repeated free dives throughout their lives, it is possible that they may have adapted similar arterial structure and function to those seen in diving mammals. We compared arterial stiffness of lifelong Japanese pearl divers with age-matched physically inactive adults living in the same fishing villages. A total of 115 Japanese female pearl divers were studied. Additionally, 50 physically inactive adults as well as 33 physically active adults (participating in community fitness programs) living in the same coastal villages were also studied. There were no differences in age (∼65 yr), body mass index, and brachial blood pressure between the groups. Measures of arterial stiffness, cardio-ankle vascular index and β-stiffness index were lower (P < 0.05) in pearl divers and physically active adults than in their physically inactive peers. Augmentation pressure and augmentation index adjusted for the heart rate of 75 beats/min were lower (P < 0.05) in pearl divers than in other groups. These results indicate that lifelong Japanese pearl divers demonstrate reduced arterial stiffness and arterial wave reflection compared with age-matched physically inactive peers living in the same fishing villages.
- arterial compliance
- diving reflex
- physical exercise
- Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society
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