Sauna Benefits for Heart Health – Introduction
Saunas have been used for centuries and are thought to have many health benefits. In some countries, particularly Scandinavian countries, saunas use is considered a way of life. When it comes to discussing sauna benefits, its important to realize there are different types of sauna. Steam saunas, dry heat saunas, infrared saunas and far-infrared saunas. In this article we will examine some of the research that backs up potential health benefits of Sauna use.
Sauna Benefits – Types Of Sauna
In general, Sauna refers to a Finnish steam sauna. This is the classic wood panel room, the heater with heated rocks. Water is poured over the heated rocks and steam produced. The temperature level is generally kept between 70-100 degrees Celsius. In dry heat saunas, water is not used.
Infrared saunas don’t achieve the same temperatures as traditional saunas, they use a heating element and there are no hot rocks. Infrared heat lamps emit near-infrared wavelengths mainly. There is less research on the health benefits of infrared saunas, however there is research pertaining to its cardiovascular benefits. The infrared does not penetrate as deeply in to the tissues as traditional heat.
Sauna Benefits – Delving Deeper
Sauna Benefits – Physiology. Saunas increase the body temperature. As a result the heart rate increases, and so does the volume of blood pumped out by the heart per minute, known as the cardiac output. The heart rate may double as a response to the heat. The vessels of the body relax and therefore resistance is lowered. This means that blood flow to the skin increases, and as a result the blood low to other body organs can decrease. Some have reported that the response to being in a sauna and the thermal stress is like that of a moderate intensity of exercise. Hormonal responses are also seen. There are increased circulating levels of growth hormones and endorphins seen. In general these are noted as a positive response. As expected there is loss of electrolytes such as potassium and sodium through the skin. There is increase level of aldosterone however, this stimulates retention of sodium and so is a form of response.
Sauna – Benefits For Lung Health
There are thought to be benefits to the lungs from Sauna use. There may be a decrease in congestion. Lung function testing demonstrated improvement in a number of lung parameters. Saunas are not thought to be of benefit in those suffering an acute lung problem, however in those with chronic lung disease there may be a benefit to regular sauna use.
Saunas – Benefits For Heart Health
Safe in Stable Heart Disease – Most of the research on heart disease and sauna use comes from countries that have routine use of saunas. Studies from Finland have demonstrated that in general, Sauna use is safe in those that have suffered a heart attack. Although the cardiac output is seen to increase, chest pain was rare.
Sauna Benefit For High Blood Pressure – In one study there was a significant reduction in blood pressure in patients with high blood pressure almost similar to the effect seen with the use of blood pressure medications. Reductions in blood pressure may also be seen in those using infrared saunas.
Sauna Benefit For Congestive Heart Failure – Japanese research has suggested that sauna use can serve to improve a number of beneficial parameters in patients with congestive heart failure. Patients also reported they felt clinically improved with the regular use of a sauna. Remarkably there was also a decrease in the number of extra heartbeats known as PVC’s. In another study there was not only clinical improvement, but also significantly less likelihood of being hospitalized.
Which Heart Patients Shouldn’t Use A Sauna?
Those with unstable symptoms, severe valve disease, low blood pressure or very recent heart attack should likely not use saunas due to the potential for inability to handle fluid shifts that may make them unstable.
Heart Health Benefits of Sauna Use – Conclusion
Research has demonstrated that in the majority of stable heart patients, sauna use is safe and potentially beneficial to heart health in regular users of a Sauna. While more studies are needed and the research is lacking to recommend this on a widespread scale, those that enjoy sauna use may well be gaining a heart health sauna benefit.