Bathing in a sauna, a practice with a millennia-long history in Finland that has traditionally been associated with pleasure and relaxation, is gaining popularity in many other countries.
A growing number of studies indicate that regular sauna bathing may reduce and avoid the risk of acute and chronic diseases.
In 2015, a study that followed 2,315 middle-aged men (ages 42 to 60 years old) from eastern Finland over a period of 20 years found that those who used saunas 4 to 7 times per week had a remarkably 48% lower risk of fatal cardiovascular disease and a 40% lower risk of death from all causes, compared with men who used saunas only once a week.
This finding held true even after taking into account other factors that could affect cardiovascular disease risks, such as age, smoking status, body mass index, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
Cardiovascular benefits of sauna
Since the heart is a muscle, it benefits from the increased blood flow that results from the dilation of blood vessels in response to heat exposure. This is similar to the way that exercising increases blood flow to muscles.
Here are some health benefits associated with the effects of sauna use:
1. Saunas can reduce blood pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. In a study of 1,621 men, researchers found that those who used a sauna 4 to 7 times per week had significantly lower blood pressure than those who only used a sauna once a week.
2. Saunas can improve blood vessel function
In a study of 102 asymptomatic participants with at least one coronary risk factors conducted last 2018, researchers found that just one 30-minute sauna session improved blood vessel function, decreasing systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, mean arterial pressure, left ventricular ejection time, and diastolic time.
3. Saunas may reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death
Sudden cardiac death is a sudden, unexpected death from fatal coronary heart disease and other cardiac causes. In a large Finnish study, frequent sauna bathing reduced risk of sudden cardiac death by more than 45%.
4. Saunas may reduce the risk of stroke
Stroke is a leading cause of disability and death. According to the American Academy of Neurology, those who do frequent sauna baths 4 to 7 times a week were found to reduce the risk of stroke by 60% compared to those people who only use a sauna bath once a week.
5. Saunas may improve heart function in people with heart failure
Heart failure is a condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. In a large study of 12,310 Finnish men and women, regular sauna use was found to improve heart function after a 4-week period of sauna bathing (5 times a week).
These are some of the ways in which saunas may benefit heart health. However, saunas should not replace other forms of exercise or be used as a substitute for medical advice. Consult your physician before using a sauna, especially if you have a medical condition.
What makes sauna so good for heart health?
There is no one answer to this question. It is likely that the combination of heat exposure, increased blood flow, and relaxation contributes to the cardiovascular benefits of saunas.
Heat exposure causes vasodilation, which is the widening of blood vessels. This increased blood flow helps to flush out toxins and improves heart function. The relaxation that comes with sauna use may also help to lower stress levels, which can have a positive impact on heart health.
How often should you sauna for cardiovascular benefits?
Most studies on sauna and cardiovascular health have used Finnish sauna bath, which are typically dry heat saunas heated to between 75°C and 95°C.
Accumulating studies suggest that those people who use saunas at 80 degrees 4 to 7 times a week may reap the most cardiovascular benefits compared to those people who only use them 2 to 3 times a week and once a week.
So, if you’re looking to improve your heart health with sauna use, aim for 4 to 7 sauna sessions per week. And, as always, consult with your physician before beginning any new sauna routine.
Is sauna safe for heart patients?
Definitely, the sauna is not only safe for heart patients but also has potential cardiovascular benefits as mentioned above. However, it is always best to consult with your physician before using a sauna, especially if you have a medical condition.
Some heart conditions may be exacerbated by heat exposure, so it is important to get the green light from your doctor before using a sauna.
In general, traditional or infrared sauna use is considered safe for most people. However, it is important to drink plenty of fluids and avoid spending too much time in the sauna, as this can lead to dehydration. It is also important to cool down slowly after a heat therapy session to avoid dizziness or fainting inside the sauna room.
Ready to try a sauna for yourself?
Many years of research have shown that sauna bathing habits can have a positive impact on heart health. Saunas may improve blood vessel function, reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death, reduce the risk of stroke, and improve heart function in people with heart failure.
At TH7 Body Labs, we offer traditional and infrared saunas and steam rooms that can help you reap the cardiovascular benefits of sauna use. Our facilities are clean, comfortable, and safe, and our staff is always on hand to help you get the most out of your sauna experience.
If you’re looking to improve your heart health, come and try our sauna therapy today. Book a session now.