Saunas To Help Prevent High Blood Pressure
A team of Finnish researchers reports that taking frequent saunas appears to help reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure. Their study found that men who took saunas four to seven times a week had a risk of high blood pressure that was nearly 50 percent lower than those who took a sauna only once a week. The study included 1,621 men between the ages of 42 and 60 none of whom had high blood pressure when they joined the study. During the following 22 years, 15.5 percent of the men developed hypertension, but the researchers found that the risk was 24 percent lower among those who took a sauna two to three times a week and 46 percent lower among those who took saunas four to seven times a week. The researchers noted that taking saunas regularly improves the function of the inside layer of blood vessels, which has beneficial effects on blood pressure. In addition, sweating in a sauna removes fluid volume from the body, which contributes to decreased blood pressure levels, the researchers wrote. They further noted that the relaxing effect of saunas on body and mind is likely a positive contributor to blood pressure control.
My take? I’m a sauna enthusiast, and I often recommend “sweat bathing” in saunas (or steam rooms) to cleanse the skin, soothe sore muscles, or simply relax. Saunas can also be beneficial to patients with arthritis, asthma or respiratory infections. The report that frequent saunas are associated with a reduced risk of developing high blood pressure speaks to their therapeutic potential. However, if you already have high blood pressure or a heart problem, or are pregnant, be sure to check with your physician before going to a sauna or steam room. The heat can influence changes in cardiovascular function, including an increased heart rate, and excessive sweating can also pose risks for some individuals. Be sure to drink lots of water before, during and after your sweat.
Francesco Zaccardi et al, “Sauna Bathing and Incident Hypertension: A Prospective Cohort Study”. American Journal of Hypertension, June 13, 2017; DOI: 10.1093/ajh/hpx102
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