Are you thinking about installing a sauna in your home? Here are to more reasons to go for it: frequent trips to a sauna may reduce high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
Saunas Can Reduce High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) and Heart Disease
Who wouldn’t be happy to read a sauna is good for blood pressure, and other modern ills like heart disease and stroke?
Much of the research about sauna and blood pressure and cardiac health has been conducted in Finland, where according to the country’s official travel guides, there are up to three million saunas for 5.3 million people.
Researchers from Finland, the U.S., and Italy looked at data from 1,621 men ages 42 to 60 who participated in the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study, an ongoing effort by the University of Eastern Finland to identify high-risk factors for heart disease.
They specifically looked for associations between sauna bathing and the risk for sudden cardiac death, fatal cardiovascular disease, and whether exposure to saunas is itself risky, a statistic referred to as all-cause mortality.
The men were divided into groups based on how often they visited a sauna (once a week, two to three times, or four to seven times). Adjustments were made for health factors such as age, body mass index, smoking and alcohol use, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Those who used saunas most often showed the lowest risk factors. Notably, the frequency was a stronger factor than the length of time spent in a sauna.
The researchers also found evidence to support earlier studies that found regular sauna visits improve blood pressure. Their subjects who used saunas two or three times a week were 25% less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who visited weekly. Sauna use seems to strengthen the endothelium—tissue that lines the inner parts of blood vessels—which improves blood pressure.
Findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
A more recent (May 2018) study in Neurology found that frequent sauna visits may reduce stroke risk. This study, also conducted in Finland, looked at 1,628 people with an average age of 63 who had no stroke history.
They were followed for 15 years, with stroke being highest (8.1%) among those who visited a sauna once a week compared to 7.4% for those who went two or three times. Those who went four to seven times a week had an astonishingly low rate of 2.8%-—60% lower than weekly visitors. “Saunas appear to have a blood pressure lowering effect,” study co-author Setor K. Kunutsor told News-Medical.net.
Should Patients With High Blood Pressure Use a Sauna?
The heart reacts much more dramatically to heat then body temperature, the Harvard Health Letter observes. It pumps double the amount of blood each minute a person is subjected to sauna temperatures, which range from 90˚ at floor level to about 185˚ at the ceiling in modern Finnish saunas.
Canadian researchers looked into sauna safety for patients with heart disease, comparing 15 minutes in a sauna with a standard treadmill stress test. All patients showed some impaired blood flow to the heart, but it was milder for patients who sat in the sauna. Still it’s a good idea for heart patients to check with their cardiologists about whether they can use a sauna and for how long.
Saunas can also ease skin conditions and improve breathing, something that’s also associated with heart function.
If you have questions about health practices and cardiovascular disease, please contact our office for a consultation.