Saunas Linked to Decreased Risk of Heart Disease

Do you skip the sauna at the gym? Turns out it’s not an indulgent luxury; in fact, it may have some pretty incredible health benefits, particularly for men.

According to recent research out of Finland, men who spent a little bit of time in a sauna seven times per week, were less likely to die from heart disease than men who only visited a sauna once per week.

The researchers looked at the habits of 2,000 middle-aged men in Finland over the course of two decades. “The more often the men went to the sauna, and the longer they stayed, the lower their risk for sudden cardiac death, fatal coronary heart disease and fatal cardiovascular disease over those 20 years,” reports New York Daily News. “About 1,500 men reported using a sauna two or three times per week, 600 said they used the sauna once per week and 200 said they visited the sauna four to seven days of the week. Only 12 men reported not using a sauna at all.”

Then, the researchers looked at hospital documents, death certificates and autopsy reports to assess the time and cause of death during the study, “190 men had died of sudden cardiac death, 281 died of coronary heart disease, 407 from cardiovascular disease, and 929 had died from other causes,” reports the Daily News. “Ten percent of the once-a-week sauna users suffered sudden cardiac death, compared to almost eight percent of those who used the sauna two or three times weekly and five percent of those who went four to seven times per week.”
And the researchers noted that death from “any cause” decreased from a 49 percent risk among men who rarely used the sauna to 31 percent for the men who spent the most time in the saunas.
“There was an inverse relationship between sauna and (cardiovascular disease) risk, meaning that more is better,” Dr. Jari Laukkanen, a cardiologist at the Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition of the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio
told Reuters Health in an email. “On the basis of these results, it seems that more than four sauna sessions per week had the lowest risk, but also those with two to three sauna sessions may get some benefits.”
It’s important to note that Finnish saunas use dry heat, not wet steam. It’s not clear if the nature of the sauna impacts the benefits. But one thing is certain: saunas decrease stress, which may be the main reason so many men experience life-extending benefits.

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