sauna bath

New research determines the correlation between mortality rates due to cardiovascular disease and sauna bathing habits.

Previous research has suggested that exposure to heat reduces the stiffness of arteries, lowers blood pressure, and improves the cardiovascular system. A common form of heat therapy, sauna bathing, has been linked with cardiovascular benefits among others including reduced musculoskeletal pain, fewer headaches, and reduced risk of neurocognitive diseases.

A Finnish study published by BioMed Central builds on a previous research study, which found that consistent sauna bathing is correlated to a lower risk of mortality. The new study expands to include women and the elderly and proposes an improved cardiovascular disease risk prediction by incorporating the individual’s sauna bathing habits.

Of the 1688 participants, 48.6% were males. The participants were between the ages of 53 and 74. Data was collected from March 1998 to December 2001. The characteristics of the sauna were identified as listed below: relative humidity ranging between 10% and 20%, temperature ranging between 80 and 100 degrees Celsius, and a duration of stay between 5 and 20 minutes.

The information on a participant’s sauna habits was collected through a questionnaire which was later reviewed by a nurse. The researchers also noted socioeconomic status, smoking habits, physical activity, and use of medication for each participant.

Consistent decrease in heart disease mortality

The results suggested that there was a consistent decrease in cardiovascular disease mortality as the participant’s number of sauna trips per week increased. The study also found that sauna sessions of longer durations caused a decrease in cardiovascular disease mortality.

Following the consideration of other risk factors such as socioeconomic status, exercise habits, and other medical conditions, the researchers concluded that information on the frequency of sauna bathing contributed towards a more accurate risk prediction for cardiovascular disease mortality.

The study focuses on the effectiveness of heat therapy in lowering cardiovascular disease risks. In addition to the previous cohort of males, the expanded sample size of this study offers compelling evidence in support of the cardiovascular benefits of sauna bathing.

Future studies should consider different demographics

With an increasing focus on preventative care, accessible forms of therapy such as sauna bathing are valuable to research. Further analysis of populations with different demographics can provide detailed insight into the accuracy of the correlation between lower cardiovascular disease mortality and frequency of sauna bathing sessions.

Written by Shrishti Ahuja, HBSc

Reference: Laukkanen, T., Kunutsor, S. K., Khan, H., Willeit, P., Zaccardi, F., & Laukkanen, J. A. (2018). Sauna bathing is associated with reduced cardiovascular mortality and improves risk prediction in men and women: A prospective cohort study. BMC Medicine, 16(1). doi:10.1186/s12916-018-1198-0

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