Feb. 23, 1998 Astronauts who spend extended periods in space often experience weakening of their hearts and blood vessels. As doctors and researchers work to understand why this happens, many of their findings can be applied to heart disease. In the month of February, when people's attention turns to matters of the heart, and in recognition of American Heart Month, NASA today highlighted how its research and technology has led to breakthroughs in the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease -- the number one killer of American men and women.
"I am proud that NASA research is helping doctors treat heart disease," said NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin. "This is a fascinating time for medical science, when the developments of our aeronautics and space programs can be applied to a disease that affects so many here on Earth."
Some startling facts:
* Heart disease is the leading cause of death of both men and women in the United States.
* About 60 million Americans have high blood pressure. If left untreated, it can lead to heart attacks, stroke and other medical problems.
* Until very recently, heart disease has not been recognized as a major risk for women. Since 1984, more women than men have died of heart disease.
Whether researching ways to keep astronauts healthy in space or transferring aerospace technologies to industry, America's space program has helped revolutionize the practice of medicine. NASA's research on the cardiovascular system is leading to many breakthrough discoveries, testing procedures and treatments. Many are less painful, less costly, and less traumatic to patients. A few of today's space-derived improvements include blood pressure monitors, self-adjusting pacemakers, EKGs, exercise equipment and ultrasound images. The technology of tomorrow will include microwave surgery, tissue replacement, heart pumps, low radiation imaging, and fetal imaging.
"Who would have dreamed that lasers used to measure Earth's ozone layer could be used to unclog arteries," Goldin continued. "If the past is our guide, our future in space will continue to advance medical science."
NASA is working with the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, dozens of hospitals, researchers and private companies. These collaborations have resulted in successful new programs to diagnose and treat heart disease.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Information about four technologies in doctorsÕ offices today and 13 technologies for the future is available at URL:
Background resource material for media representatives, including photos, video, and points of contact for interviews, is available by calling Elvia Thompson, NASA Headquarters Public Affairs, at 202/358-1696.
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