Sauna Users Live Longer – Finland Study
People who regularly visit saunas live longer, and are less likely to die of sudden heart attacks than men who visited less often, a new study out of Finland found.
In Finland, going to the sauna is a popular activity. It is very accepted for its important contribution to good health and relaxation.
The latest study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine looked at the link between sauna bathing and the risk of sudden cardiac death, fatal coronary heart disease, fatal cardiovascular disease and dying from any cause among a group of 2,315 middle-aged men (42 to 60 years old) from eastern Finland.
The men were tracked for a median, or midpoint, of 21 years. All went to saunas but some more often than others. Those who reported going to sauna once a week were compared to those going two to three times a week. The more frequent sauna-goers had a 22 percent lower risk of sudden cardiac death
Those who went four to seven times a week to the sauna had a 63 percent lower risk – than those who went once a week.
Similarly, coronary heart disease risk was 23 percent lower for two to three bathing sessions per week and 48 percent lower for four to seven sauna sessions per week compared to once a week, the study said.
The risk of dying from heart disease was 27 percent lower for men who took saunas two to three times a week.
The risk of dying from heart disease was 50 percent lower for men who were in the sauna four to seven times a week, again compared to those who went once per week.
When researchers looked at the risk of dying from any cause, they found sauna bathing two to three times per week was associated with a 24 percent lower risk.
A 40 percent reduction in death risk was attributed to going to the sauna four to seven days a week. Staying more than 19 minutes in the sauna also appeared more beneficial than just staying less than 11 minutes in the hot, wood-paneled room.
“Further studies are warranted to establish the potential mechanism that links sauna bathing and cardiovascular health,” said the study, led by Jari Laukkanen, of the University of Eastern Finland.
Some previous studies have found saunas are linked to improved heart health, but none has proven cause and effect, or explained exactly how saunas may be helping the body.
“Clearly time spent in the sauna is time well spent”, says JAMA Internal Medicine’s editor-in-chief.
“Although we do not know why the men who took saunas more frequently had greater longevity (whether it is the time spent in the hot room, the relaxation time, the leisure of a life that allows for more relaxation time or the camaraderie of the sauna), clearly time spent in the sauna is time well spent,” wrote Rita Redberg of the University of California, San Francisco, who is JAMA Internal Medicine’s editor-in-chief.