Traveling in Deep Space Is Bad for Your Heart

Apollo astronauts are much more likely to die of cardiovascular disease
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 29, 2016 3:58 AM CDT

(Newser) – Planning a trip to the moon? You might want to think about heart health first. According to a study published in Scientific Reports, travel in deep space dramatically raises the risk of cardiovascular disease. Florida State University researchers looked at America's Apollo astronauts, who are the only people ever to have gone to deep space, and found that they were four to five times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than other astronauts, NBC News reports. Eight of the 24 Apollo astronauts have died, and of the seven deaths looked at, three, including Neil Armstrong, were from cardiovascular disease. That works out to roughly 45%, compared with around 10% among astronauts who either remained in low Earth orbit or never went to space at all.

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The study suggests that leaving the Earth's protective magnetosphere, which deflects cosmic radiation, even for short periods can do long-term damage to the cardiovascular system, according to the researchers. They say that since astronauts are selected from some of the most physically fit people around, the link wasn't uncovered until the Apollo crews were compared to other astronauts instead of the general public. Former NASA astronaut Jeff Hoffman says the implications are clear: Space travel needs to be fast. "We can't shield against high-energy cosmic radiation, not with our current mass-limiting capabilities, but it does re-emphasize the importance of getting to Mars as quickly as possible," he tells the Guardian. (Last month, NASA started an experimental fire on a cargo vessel.)

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