Deep Space Travel Might Increase Heart Risk for Astronauts, Says Study


A new study suggests traveling beyond Earth's magnetic shield can actually compromise long-term cardiovascular health.

Scientists are starting to learn more about the toll space travel takes on the human body. When, earlier this year, astronaut Scott Kelly returned to Earth after nearly a year in space, his vertebrae had expanded and he'd grown 2 inches.

In space, skin cells fall off in large quantities, the face gets puffier and legs get skinner due to the redistribution of fluids in the body, hangover-like feelings are common, along with problems actually locating your limbs — in short, microgravity really screws with you. 

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Florida State University professor Michael Delp, along with a team of researchers affiliated with NASA, studied the 24 Apollo astronauts who flew to the moon decades ago, the New York Times reported. They found a higher rate of heart-related deaths in this group compared to astronauts who didn't fly that far out.

It's a too-small study. The astronauts may have had heart problems before they flew away from Earth, for instance. But "on further research in mice, they suggest that the cause of cardiovascular disease in these astronauts may have been deep space radiation," the Times wrote.

As space agencies start to plan future missions to the moon, to Mars and beyond, we need to figure out other ways astronauts' bodies may be at risk, Delp told the Times.

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