Anyone over 40 who is interested in their heart health can relate to a study that began on the International Space Station last week. As we get older, our arteries stiffen and this causes an increase in blood pressure (hypertension) and elevates the risk for cardiovascular disease. In so many ways, the effects of space on the human body look a lot like ageing, and there is evidence that when some astronauts go to the ISS their arteries stiffen. Could the effect be similar to the effects of lack of physical activity on Earth?
On Jan. 7 and 8, Tim Peake performed the first Vascular Echo Ultrasound session and used the Portable Doppler for the first time on orbit as part of the Vascular Echo study. The study is led by the Canadian Space Agency and its PI, Dr. Richard Hughson has a long career of innovative studies on heart and vascular health in space. Dr. Hughson is also a great international collaborator. Scientists from Canada and France are collaborating on this study, and the US, Germany and the UK were involved in the operations. It will be interesting for scientists from around the world to better understand if the challenges to the human body from being in space have an effect on stiffening of the arteries.