Relaxing in a hot sauna does not just feel great, it may also be good for your heart and blood vessels.
A recent study was conducted at the University of Eastern Finland. Researchers found that people gain major health welfares from sauna bathing, irrespective of gender.
Preceding researches had generally looked at the benefits only in men. “We have observed risk reduction for cardiovascular happenings in both women and men,” said Tanjaniina Laukkanen, MSc, first author of the study, “And we didn’t have this information before.”
Laukkanen and her colleagues published the results of the study in the journal BMC Medicine.
What does the research say?
The researchers found that regular sauna baths were related to the lesser risk of deadly cardiovascular diseases (CVD) events like stroke and heart attack. However, it is still uncertain as to why saunas are related to these health benefits.
Researchers used a previous population-based heart ailment study in Finland, the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease (KIHD) Study as a base for their work. Using the KIHD study, researchers observed the happening of cardiovascular disease incidents among a group of 1,688 participants. They observed both men and women having the ages between 53 and 74.
Group members were first examined between 1998 and 2001, with consistent follow-up appointments since then.
Group participants were then asked to state their sauna bathing habits. It includes the temperature of the sauna room, the duration of each sauna, and how often. Depending on the frequency of sauna, researchers distributed participants into three groups: once per week, 2-3 times per week, and 4-7 times per week.
A total of 181 deadly CVD occasions happened during the approximately 15 years of follow-up. And the more often participants used saunas, the less likely they were to die.
The risk of CVD-related death was lowest in the group that took saunas four to seven times per week. The group that used one sauna bath per week had approximately four times as many deaths as the regular users.
Those who tended to take longer saunas also exhibited better results in terms of CVD-related mortality.
“As we know that heat (from steam, hot tubs, or saunas) has therapeutic helps with regard to lowering blood pressure,” said Dr. Cindy Grines. He is a chair of cardiology at Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, New York.
“Heat therapy is beneficial for many systems within our bodies. Actually, the reason one develops a fever is that heat allows the body to better fight the infection,” said Grines, who was unaffiliated with the study.
Additionally, the study does offer some challenges for Americans. In Finland, sauna bathing is a usually used and traditionally important activity.
In the U.S, you may discover a dry sauna at a gym or day spa. But they definitely aren’t a common fixture for most households.
“The supreme benefit was detected in people who took frequent saunas usually four to seven per week. But this is a frequency which Americans are unlikely to achieve,” said Grines.
Staying safe in the heat
When entering a sauna, you may see a warning for persons with heart disorders. Saunas are normally safe, but people who have had any cardiovascular disease should discourse sauna bathing with their physician.
Contrary to these warnings, as this and previous study suggest, saunas are truly beneficial to many persons with heart disorders.
For safety, keep in mind the following commendations when using a sauna;
- Don’t drink alcohol before or during use.
- Stay hydrated and bring water with you.
- The heat from a sauna can lower your blood pressure, causing dizziness, particularly upon standing up.
Besides these cautions, sauna bathing can be a great way to relax. And if you are uncertain how to include a sauna into your routine, Laukkanen offers some ideas;
“Sauna bathing is a good relaxing habit after exercise. Do sauna and it feels great and pleasing,” Laukkanen said. “Drink adequate water and if probable rise your legs during sauna. As it helps blood flow to your brain. Firstly, take a short sauna time. Cool down in room temperature and try to avoid extreme temperature changes.”