Go ahead and spend some time in a sauna—it may improve, and even save, your life. Men who regularly use the relaxation tool are nearly half as likely to develop high blood pressure, according to a Finnish study. The medical issue is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
Between 2012 and 2015, 24 percent of Canadians aged 20 to 79 had hypertension. Several ways to prevent or treat high blood pressure is by eating healthy food, exercising regularly, watching your weight, and, apparently, relaxing in a hot-air bath. The study, recently published in the American Journal of Hypertension concludes, “Regular sauna bathing is associated with reduced risk of hypertension, which may be a mechanism underlying the decreased cardiovascular risk associated with sauna use.”
Dr. Francesco Zaccardi of the Department of Medicine at the University of Eastern Finland co-authored the study. He and his team examined 1,621 Finnish men aged 42 to 60. They monitored their blood pressure over the course of approximately 25 years. A total of 251 of the participants developed high blood pressure. Those who had two to three sauna sessions each week versus one session per week had a 24 percent lower risk of developing hypertension. And the more they used the sauna, the better. Men who had four to seven sauna sessions per week had a 46 percent lower risk of blood pressure.
When a person has high blood pressure, the force of blood that flows through the arteries gets too high. A sauna can increase a person’s body temperature, causing blood vessels to widen, which can increase blood flow.
Using a sauna on a regular basis may help a tissue in the body called the endothelium work more efficiently, improving blood pressure. The study’s analysts noted that more research is necessary to explain how sauna use affects cardiovascular function.
There are numerous other benefits to using a sauna, including easing pain and reducing stress. According to Dr. Julian Whitaker, a proponent of alternative medicine, sweating in a sauna helps rid the body of toxins and also helps combat issues such as chronic fatigue, mild depression, and Rheumatoid arthritis.
Sauna use has also been attributed to reducing symptoms for those who suffer from asthma and the skin condition Psoriasis. A 2016 study, also from Finland, linked sauna use to a reduction in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease; although more research is needed to back up its findings.