A team of researchers was able to identify a new health hazard caused by missions in space. In a study, the researchers explained how the new health issue could affect the heart conditions of astronauts.

The new study was published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. It focuses on the researchers' observations on a group of astronauts and cosmonauts.

astronauts
Astronauts' brains change in space. Pixabay

New Health Risk For Astronauts

For the study, the researchers monitored a group of spacefarers before, during and after their trips to space. They ate both high and low-sodium diets in space and on Earth. Through observations and tests, the researchers learned that the astronauts excreted less sodium when they were in space than on Earth. The researchers noted that the type of diet did not affect the amount of sodium excreted by the astronauts.

According to the researchers, the body of astronauts could be producing less cardiac natriuretic peptides when they're in space, which are hormones that help the body excrete sodium."A key finding from our study is that in space, although cardiac natriuretic peptide concentrations respond to changes in sodium intake, they are reset to lower levels," the researchers wrote in their study.

astronaut exercise
This picture shows NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Expedition 32 flight engineer, performs a cardiopulmonary exercise test while using the Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation System (CEVIS) in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station to assess cardiorespiratory fitness. NASA

Effect On Astronauts' Heart Health

The production of cardiac natriuretic peptides might have been affected by the other effects of space travel on the body. As indicated in previous studies, the lack of gravity in space causes water and blood to move into an astronaut's upper body. Due to the abundance of fluids in the upper body, it gets tricked into producing less blood and water.

The same effect could have also triggered fewer productions of cardiac natriuretic peptides. Since these hormones help in regulating blood pressure levels, spending extended periods of time in space could have long-term effects on the heart health of astronauts.

"Astronauts on the news might look like they're having a fun camping trip up there in their short sleeves and their temperature- and oxygen-controlled environment," cardiologist Michael Bungo of the Cardiovascular Laboratory at Houston's NASA Johnson Space Center said in a statement. "But a lot of changes actually do occur in their bodies."