Some heart prob­lems are out of this world

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS -

For those han­ker­ing to travel to the stars, here’s some re­search to take to heart. A study of 12 as­tro­nauts found that ex­tended pe­ri­ods of float­ing through mi­cro­grav­ity ac­tu­ally caused space trav­el­ers’ hearts to be­come more spher­i­cal, which could be a sign the heart is not per­form­ing ef­fi­ciently.

“The heart doesn’t work as hard in space, which can cause a loss of mus­cle mass,” Dr. James Thomas, a NASA sci­en­tist and se­nior au­thor of the study, said in a news re­lease. “That can have se­ri­ous con­se­quences af­ter the re­turn to Earth, so we’re look­ing into whether there are mea­sures that can be taken to pre­vent or coun­ter­act that loss.”

He and a team of re­searchers are in­ves­ti­gat­ing what types and amounts of ex­er­cise space trav­el­ers will need to keep their hearts healthy, es­pe­cially on longer flights such as a mis­sion to Mars. Those ex­er­cises might also prove ben­e­fi­cial for those of us whose feet re­main firmly planted on Earth. For ex­am­ple, people who have se­vere phys­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions—such as those on ex­tended bed rest or with heart fail­ure—might gain from the re­sults. The find­ings were pre­sented last week dur­ing the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Car­di­ol­ogy’s An­nual Sci­en­tific Ses­sion in Wash­ing­ton.

Cos­mic tourism hasn’t quite hit the main­stream, but it’s not such a space od­dity—es­pe­cially if you have an as­tro­nom­i­cal bank ac­count. For ex­am­ple, there’s the Win­klevoss twins—who be­came fa­mous in a le­gal bat­tle over the cre­ation of Face­book—who in March be­came the lat­est to pur­chase $250,000 tick­ets from Vir­gin Galac­tic, a space­flight com­pany.

If your heart is set on in­ter­plan­e­tary sight­see­ing, you’ll be happy to know that the spher­i­cal syn­drome is tem­po­rary; the or­gan re­turns to nor­mal once you’re back on terra firma. But you would need to con­sider the other side ef­fects—bone loss, vi­sion im­pair­ment, drops in blood pres­sure, ar­rhyth­mias, im­mune sys­tem dys­func­tion and ra­di­a­tion sick­ness, to name a few.

Some­thing to think about be­fore blastoff.

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