Frequent - even daily - taking a sauna can reduce the risk of cardiac death, according to a recent study carried out at the University of Eastern Finland. The 20-year follow-up study discovered that men taking a sauna 4-7 times a week were 63% less likely to experience a sudden cardiac death than those taking a sauna once a week. Furthermore, the occurrence of death due to coronary artery disease and other cardiac events, as well as overall mortality, were less frequent in the group taking saunas several times a week.
The effects of sauna use on mortality were studied in the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study (KIHD), involving more than 2,000 middle-aged men living in the eastern part of Finland. Based on their sauna-taking habits, the study participants were divided into three groups: those taking a sauna once a week, those taking a sauna 2-3 times a week, and those taking a sauna 4-7 times a week. The more frequently saunas were taken, the less likely were sudden cardiac deaths, deaths due to coronary artery disease and other cardiac events, as well as deaths due to other reasons.
Moreover, the time spent taking a sauna was linked to the risk of cardiac death. Those who spent more than 19 minutes in the sauna at a time were 52% less likely to experience a sudden cardiac death than those spending only 11 minutes in the sauna at a time. The risk of death due to a cardiac event was also otherwise smaller in those spending longer times in the sauna.
According to Docent Jari Laukkanen, the study leader, the mechanisms of why taking a sauna protects the heart are not yet fully understood, and further research is still required. However, taking a sauna may reduce blood pressure and maintain blood vessel elasticity.
The findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.