If you want better heart health, maybe you should take a lesson from the Finns. A new study from Finland, a land that not only loves saunas but invented the word, suggests frequent sauna baths are linked to better heart health.
Previous research indicated that saunas might improve blood-vessel function and exercise capacity, and lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension. The study in JAMA Internal Medicine links long, hot sauna baths with even more benefits, including fewer deaths from heart attacks, strokes, various heart-related conditions and other causes.
About 2,300 Finnish men, in their early 50s on average, were asked how often they used saunas. During almost 20 years of follow-up, more than 900 men died. The researchers took into account characteristics in addition to sauna use that would have affected their survival, including cigarette smoking, weight, physical activity and blood pressure.
Deaths from heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems were nearly two times more common in men who used saunas once weekly than in those who used saunas at least four times weekly. Deaths from other causes were also more common in men who used saunas infrequently.
Dr. Jari Laukkanen, a University of Eastern Finland researcher and the lead author of the study, said the sauna's high temperature and humidity might promote beneficial physiological changes in the cardiovascular system, but more research is needed to determine how saunas might prolong survival.
But make sure your sauna's temp is turned up. In the study, the average sauna temperature was 174 degrees for its most frequent users.