Taking a sauna bath 4-7 times a week may reduce the risk of elevated blood pressure by nearly 50 per cent, a study has found. Researchers had previously shown that frequent sauna bathing reduces the risk of sudden cardiac death, and cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.
Elevated blood pressure is documented to be one of the most important risk factors of cardiovascular diseases. According to the researchers from University of Eastern Finland underlying protective mechanisms may include the beneficial effects of regular sauna bathing on blood pressure. The study, published in the American Journal of Hypertension, involved 1,621 middle-aged men from Finland.
Study participants without elevated blood pressure or with diagnosed hypertension were included in the study. Based on their sauna bathing habits, men were divided into three sauna frequency groups: those taking a sauna once a week, 2-3 times a week, or 4-7 times a week. During an average follow-up of 22 years, 15.5 per cent of the men developed clinically defined hypertension.
The risk of hypertension was 24 per cent decreased among men with a sauna frequency of 2-3 times a week, and 46 per cent lowered among men who had a sauna 4-7 times a week. Sauna bathing may decrease systemic blood pressure through different biological mechanisms. During sauna bathing, the body temperature may rise up to 2 degrees Celsius degrees, causing vessels vasodilation.
Regular sauna bathing improves endothelial function, ie the function of the inside layer of blood vessels, which has beneficial effects on systemic blood pressure. Sweating, in turn, removes fluid from the body, which is a contributing factor to decreased blood pressure levels.
Additionally, sauna bathing may also lower systemic blood pressure due to overall relaxation of the body and mind. A recent analysis of the same study also revealed that those taking a sauna frequently have a lower risk of pulmonary diseases.