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CARDIOBREATH: Taking a deep dive into astronaut health

Health science

The CARDIOBREATH experiment tracks changes in how astronauts' cardiovascular and respiratory systems control their blood pressure, with the goal of keeping crews healthier in space and upon return.

Background

Human bodies are best suited to life on Earth. When astronauts travel to space and live in a weightless environment, their cardiorespiratory systems adapt – sometimes in ways that can affect their health. For example, the fluids that circulate in their bodies decrease in volume, which means their blood pressure is lower than on Earth.

Researchers are working to understand more about how astronauts' cardiorespiratory systems decondition when they are in microgravity. CARDIOBREATH looks at what can be done to protect astronauts' blood pressure regulation, by examining the relationship between cardiovascular and respiratory system adaptations during missions on the International Space Station – using the Bio-Monitor, the Canadian-made smart shirt system designed to monitor astronauts' vital signs in space.

David Saint-Jacques tries the Bio-Monitor in space

Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques tried the Bio-Monitor, a Canadian technology, for the first time in space. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency/NASA)

Objectives

This study will:

How fast a person breathes

How fast a person breathes affects their heart rate and blood pressure – and how fast their heart beats also affects their breathing patterns. Likewise, a person's blood pressure affects their heart rate – and this in turn affects their blood pressure.

By studying these biological feedback loops, researchers will understand more about what happens to astronauts' cardiovascular systems in space.

 Impacts on Earth

Weightlessness can cause many health issues for astronauts. Studying how the cardiorespiratory system deconditions and affects the control of blood pressure in a weightless environment will help researchers come up with ways to keep astronauts healthier.

Meanwhile, the cardiorespiratory changes that happen during space flight are similar to what happens as people age on Earth and to people whose bodies decondition after a long period of bed rest. Further insights from CARDIOBREATH will help the development of countermeasures and recovery protocols for astronauts, and could also be used to improve the health of elderly patients and all Canadians.

How it works

Researchers aim to study 14 astronauts:

  1. The participants' cardiovascular systems will be tested four times on the ground: twice before and twice after the flight. Each subject will wear a custom-fitted Bio-Monitor device and cycle on a stationary bike for 25 minutes at a specific level of effort, while researchers track their heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate and activity level. Additional measurements will also be taken in a standing position, such as measurement of balance.
  2. In space, participants will wear custom-fitted Bio-Monitor devices and perform the same cycling exercise session they did on the ground. They will also collect measurements for a few minutes during rest periods before and after the exercise session.

Researchers will compare the results they get on Earth with the results obtained in space. They will also compare the results of male and female astronauts to determine whether sex-based differences exist.

Timeline

Researchers began data collection in early .

Research team

Principal investigator

Co-investigator

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