Prolonged space flights can cause important physiological changes in the bodies of astronauts, which directly contribute to accelerating the aging of travelers. This is what a study by researchers at the Polytechnic Institute of Turin, Italy, published in early October, in the journal npj Microgravity, points out.
The research, based on a mathematical model, allowed the investigation of space flight mechanisms that induce a series of problems, including vascular deconditioning. As life in zero gravity requires less physical effort, the heart ends up becoming less tolerant of exercise, a situation similar to an accelerated version of aging.
When comparing the cardiovascular response in conditions of zero gravity with what happens on Earth, the authors noted that several hemodynamic parameters were reduced, including oxygen consumption, cardiac work, contractility rates and blood pressure. Significant changes in the capillary-venous level were also noted.
Thus, they reached the following conclusion: the physical conditioning of those who spend a long time participating in space missions, under the prolonged effects of weightlessness, can be comparable to the situation of people who have never exercised, leading to a sedentary life. Given the rigor of the physical tests that astronauts undergo, before embarking, the study claims to be an impressive change.
Discovery could trigger changes in future missions
With NASA and other space agencies preparing to explore space more and more, long-term missions over the next few decades, such as a possible expedition to Mars, will need to undergo some adaptations, based on the result of this study. This is what aerospace engineer Stefania Scarsoglio, the lead author of the research, thinks.
“The current findings are useful for designing future long-term space flights, individualizing ideal countermeasures, understanding the health status of astronauts and requesting immediate physical capacity, when partial gravity is restored, when needed,” commented Scarsoglio.