Category Archives: Sauna

Sauna Good For Mental Health

This is the third and final post in recognition of Helsinki Sauna Day, which is March 9th. We will again look at some of the benefits of sauna baths, this time in the realm of mental health.

The sauna continues to be an important part of Finnish culture. The sauna cuts across socio-economic classes- the prime minister has a sauna at his/her disposal as do most companies. Saunas are felt to be very egalitarian.

This particular study again utilizes the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease cohort and is a prospective study. Over 2100 men completed the study, ages 42-61 years. None of the men had any history of psychotic disorders at the time of enrollment. Participants completed a questionnaire that assessed smoking history, use of alcohol, physical activity levels, medical and medication history. The weekly frequency and duration of sauna bathing sessions was also collected. The men were followed for nearly 25 years, on average.

Results of the study showed that frequent sauna bathing is strongly associated with a decreased risk of psychosis, in middle age males.

It would be helpful to carry out a similar study in females. It would also be useful to perform the study amongst a more diverse population, such as we have in the United States.

It is felt that the sauna baths promote relaxation and decrease stress, and perhaps in doing so increase mental health. Saunas are also an opportunity to spend time with friends and family, which also promotes wellness. Given these results, and the low risk nature of sauna bathing, perhaps you may want to consider incorporating this as part of an overall healthy lifestyle.

“A sauna- the poor man’s pharmacy.”–  Finnish Proverb

(Source- Medical Principles and Practice, Sept. 2018)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

Sauna Lowers Risk of High Blood Pressure

This is the second post in recognition of Helsinki Sauna Day, which is March 9th. In this post we will examine research regarding sauna bathing and subsequent development of hypertension.

Sauna is a part of life in Finland, and an important element in Finnish culture. Saunas go back at least 2000 years, and perhaps even much longer. The first saunas were simply dug into embankments, and later free-standing log structures were developed. There are more saunas than cars in FInland.

A prospective cohort study was completed as part of the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Study, this was the same study group that was discussed in our last post. The sample size included over 1600 men, ages from 42 to 60 years. It is important to note that these men did not have high blood pressure at baseline.

The subjects were enrolled in the study between 1984 to 1989. Information such as smoking habits, body mass index, serum creatinine (kidney function), glucose and cholesterol were collected. Sauna bathing habits were assessed via a self-administered questionnaire. The median age was 52.9 years. The average duration of a single sauna session was 14.4 minutes.

The mean time of follow-up was 22 years. During this time, subjects were monitored for the development of hypertension. The researchers discovered that the higher frequency of sauna bathing was independently associated with a lower risk of the development of high blood pressure, in a dose-response manner.

This is an important study- none of the subjects had hypertension when they enrolled into the study. Also, the more sauna sessions a participant had each week, the lower the risk of developing hypertension.

While this study shows impressive results in an all-male study, it should be repeated in a population of female participants to see if the results would still apply. Also, it would be interesting to see if the results would apply in a more diverse population, such as we have in the United States. In any case, taking a sauna bath certainly seems like a low risk endeavour that could potentially lead to the prevention of high blood pressure.

“Build the sauna, then the house.”–  Finnish Saying

(Source- American Journal of Hypertension 30(11), November 2017)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

Sauna Is Good For Your Heart

March 9th is Helsinki Sauna Day, and in recognition of this day our post will review research related to Finnish sauna bathing and cardiovascular events. This will be our first of three posts on the benefits of sauna bathing.

The sauna is an important part of Finnish culture. One of the first recorded writings on sauna baths are from the monk Nestor the Chronicler in 1112. Some versions of the Finnish sauna are thought to go back at least two thousand years. There is an average of one sauna per household in FInland, where saunas are a place to relax with family and friends. A traditional Finnish sauna usually has warm (80-100 C), dry (10-20% humidity) air.

A recent study looked at the association of the frequency as well as duration of sauna bathing and several cardiovascular markers, such as sudden cardiovascular death and fatal cardiovascular diseases. A prospective cohort study was performed by enrolling over 2300 men, ages 42-60 years, from eastern Finland. Subjects were from the Finnish Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study.

The subjects were subdivided into groups based on the frequency of sauna bathing (1, 2-3, and 4-7 times each week) and also the duration of the sauna sessions (<11, 11-19, and >19 minutes per session). Baseline evaluations were conducted beginning in 1984 through 1989. On average, participants were followed for 18.8 years.

Results of the study demonstrated that the subjects with a higher frequency of sauna bathing per week had a lower risk of both fatal coronary heart disease and fatal cardiovascular disease. In fact, the risk of fatal coronary heart disease was 23% lower for 2-3 sauna sessions per week, and 48% lower for 4-7 sauna bathing sessions per week.

In addition, the frequency of sauna bathing was also inversely associated with all-cause mortality, with a 40% reduction in all-cause mortality when comparing 4-7 sessions per week of sauna bathing to one session per week.

The mechanism by which sauna bathing confers these protective cardiovascular benefits is not entirely clear. Heart rate may rise to 100-150 beats per minute during a sauna bath, which is comparable to some types of low and moderate exercise training. It is also believed that sauna bathing is beneficial for the endothelial lining of the blood vessels.

It would be helpful to perform this same study in a population of female participants, to see if the results would be comparable.

While sauna bathing may not be for everyone, again we have a simple low risk intervention that may yield great benefits. Happy Helsinki Sauna Day!

“The ideal sauna is a small building made of logs, set near a lakeshore, facing towards the sunset.”  Bernhard Hillila

(Source- JAMA Internal Medicine 2015: 175(4):542-548)

This bog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.