If you’ve ever visited a spa or a gym, you may have noticed a sauna. Maybe on your visit, you used the sauna to unwind, relax, and ease sore muscles, but you probably didn’t realize that you were also improving your heart health too.
A recent study uncovered that frequent sauna use boosts heart health. The study looked at over 1,600 middle-aged males from Finland who took sauna baths. Men who embarked on sauna baths four to seven days a week managed to cut their high blood pressure by nearly half compared to men who only experience saunas once a week.
Study researcher Jari Laukkanen explained, “Sauna bathing may decrease systemic blood pressure through different biological mechanisms.”
What makes sauna bathing so effective for heart health? Well, in a sauna, body temperature rises and that widens blood vessels. When blood vessels are widened then blood can move more freely through them. Over time, blood vessel function improves. Furthermore, sweating caused by sitting in a sauna removes excess fluid, which your body may be retaining. Lastly, saunas promote relaxation, and with stress being such a large factor in high blood pressure, this is another benefit.
Using follow-up data collected over 22 years, about 15 percent of the men developed high blood pressure. Among men who sauna bathed frequently, their risk for high blood pressure was 46 percent lower than those who participated once a week.
It’s important to keep blood pressure numbers low because having high blood pressure chronically can lead to serious health consequences, including heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Earlier this year, Laukkanen performed other studies on the benefits of saunas. The study tracked over 2,300 men for over two decades and uncovered that men who frequently visited saunas had a 63 percent lower risk of death from stroke and heart attack. These men also had 66 percent fewer cases of Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers suggest that sauna visits played a definitive role in the benefits experienced.
Using a sauna four times a week for two months, the men saw an improvement in blood pressure, blood flow, and heart function.
Laukkanen explained, “I think it’s very significant because we have not seen that a lifestyle factor can be so protective against (a) number of cardiovascular diseases.”
Although previous studies have found negative effects associated with sauna use, such as itchy skin in people with skin conditions, the Finnish researchers did not find any adverse side effects. But you should still speak to your doctor prior to sauna bathing, as each person has unique conditions that may prevent them from sauna bathing.