Sauna_heart_M_web

Of heat and hearts

Here is a little bit of trivia that you can wow your friends with at your next dinner party: what is the only Finnish word in the English dictionary? The answer is “sauna”, correctly pronounced “sow-nah”. At a stretch you might argue that pulk (a type of toboggan) and palsa (oval mounds of frozen soil) are also Finnish representatives in English but when is the last time you said you had, “ridden your pulk down a palsa”? In effect sauna is the sole Finnish word we use and no wonder because to sauna is a distinctive activity. When else do you publicly get your clothes off with the avowed intention of doing no more than sweating? Of course, having a sauna is also a healthy thing to do and a new study has found that it is very healthy for your heart.

Saunas take place in high heat, at around 70-80 degrees Celsius. The background to this research is that regular sauna taking has been linked to improved circulation, reduced blood pressure, and better heart function. What these researchers wanted to test though, was how those effects translated into longevity by reducing, or not, the risk of cardiac-related death.

To study this they gathered 2,315 Finnish men aged 42 to 60. They all completed a questionnaire as to how often they used a sauna and then were followed for an average of 21 years.

The data revealed that men who had 2-3 sauna sessions per week were 22 per cent less likely to experience sudden cardiac death, 23 per cent less likely to experience fatal coronary heart disease, had a 27 per cent reduction in cardiovascular disease death, and were 24 per cent less likely to die from any cause. What was truly convincing about this study was that men who engaged in more sauna time enjoyed greater benefits.

Men who had 4-7 sauna sessions per week had a 63 per cent lower incidence of cardiac death, a 48 per cent lower incidence of coronary heart disease death, a 50 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease death, and were 40 per cent less likely to die from all causes. These figures are all relative to men who only sauna once per week.

The length of time spent in a sauna also seemed to matter. Compared to men who spent less than 11 minutes in a sauna, men who spent 11-19 minutes were seven per cent less likely to experience sudden cardiac death, and those who spent 19 minutes or more in a sauna were at a 52 per cent lower risk.

Studies need to be done to see if the benefits extend to women as well and it might be that part of the benefit here is simply taking time out to do something for yourself. It certainly seems though that the heart rate stimulating effect of a good sauna is a healthy thing, which is pretty hot news really.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

You May Also Like

Wellbeing & Eatwell Cover Image 1001x667 2024 05 10t151116.716

Harmony – empowering women for over 30 years

Wellbeing & Eatwell Cover Image 1001x667 2024 05 15t112753.315

Kidney stones

Wellbeing & Eatwell Cover Image 1001x667 2024 04 24t115032.107

Nifty Noodle

Wellbeing & Eatwell Cover Image 1001x667 2024 04 17t142145.187

Joyful indulgence, made healthy