Cardiovascular Disease Risk Modeling for Astronauts: Making the Leap From Earth to Space

Janice L. Huff, Ianik Plante, Steve R. Blattnig, Ryan B. Norman, Mark P. Little, Amit Khera, Lisa C. Simonsen, Zarana S. Patel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


NASA has recently completed several long-duration missions to the International Space Station and is solidifying plans to return to the Moon, with an eye toward Mars and beyond. As NASA pushes the boundaries of human space exploration, the hazards of spaceflight, including space radiation, levy an increasing burden on astronaut health and performance. The cardiovascular system may be especially vulnerable due to the combined impacts of space radiation exposure, lack of gravity, and other spaceflight hazards. On Earth, the risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) following moderate to high radiation doses is well-established from clinical, environmental, and occupational exposures (largely from gamma- and x-rays). Less is known about CVD risks associated with high-energy charged ions found in space and increasingly used in radiotherapy applications on Earth, making this a critical area of investigation for occupational radiation protection. Assessing CVD risk is complicated by its multifactorial nature, where an individual's risk is strongly influenced by factors such as family history, blood pressure, and lipid profiles. These known risk factors provide the basis for development of a variety of clinical risk prediction models (CPMs) that inform the likelihood of medical outcomes over a defined period. These tools improve clinical decision-making, personalize care, and support primary prevention of CVD. They may also be useful for individualizing risk estimates for CVD following radiation exposure both in the clinic and in space. In this review, we summarize unique aspects of radiation risk assessment for astronauts, and we evaluate the most widely used CVD CPMs for their use in NASA radiation risk assessment applications. We describe a comprehensive dual-use risk assessment framework that supports both clinical care and operational management of space radiation health risks using quantitative metrics. This approach is a first step in using personalized medicine for radiation risk assessment to support safe and productive spaceflight and long-term quality of life for NASA astronauts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number873597
JournalFrontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine
StatePublished - May 19 2022


  • astronaut
  • biomarker
  • clinical prediction model
  • individual risk
  • radiation epidemiology
  • radiation-induced cardiovascular disease
  • risk modeling
  • space radiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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