Space travel may increase heart-related deaths


Former Apollo astronauts have up to five times the rate of heart-related deaths that their earth-bound peers, a new study shows.

Adverse effects

And researchers suspect that exposure to deep space radiation may be the reason why.

"We know very little about the effects of deep space radiation on human health, particularly on the cardiovascular system. This gives us the first glimpse into its adverse effects on humans," said Michael Delp, dean of the College of Human Sciences at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Read: Omega-3 fatty acids cut fatal heart attack risk

The Apollo space programme ran from 1961 to 1972. It included 11 manned space flights, some of which went to the moon. Nine of those missions went beyond earth's orbit into deep space.

The study included data from seven of 24 Apollo astronauts who have died and found that 43 percent of them died from a heart problem. An eighth Apollo astronaut died after the analysis was completed.

Impaired artery function

That rate of heart-related death is four to five times higher than among astronauts who have not left Earth and those whose missions were limited to low Earth orbit, Delp said, though the study couldn't prove cause and effect.

Read: Traffic noise increases the risk of heart attack

He and his colleagues also exposed mice to the type of radiation Apollo astronauts would have been exposed to in space. After six months – equal to 20 human years – the mice had impaired artery function known to lead to heart disease, researchers reported.

"What the mouse data show is that deep space radiation is harmful to vascular health," Delp said in a university news release.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Read more:

Heart attack 


Coronary artery disease (CAD)

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Authorities should bring in the army already
9% - 915 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
54% - 5217 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
33% - 3202 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
3% - 309 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.