Research from the University of Eastern Finland has indicated that men who regulary use a sauna, particulary those who are middle-aged have a 50% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease as those who do not. This was shown to be the case in men who only had a single sauna session a week.
Regular daily sessions appear to lower the risk of death by any cause by as much as 40%. The longer the amount of time spent in the sauna was shown to enhance health benefits with more than 20% offering the most protection.
The research followed 2,315 men aged 42 to 60 from eastern Finland over approximately 21 years and compared the death rates between those individuals who visited a sauna once a week and those with more frequent use.
During the follow-up period the researchers recorded 190 sudden cardiac deaths, 281 fatal cases of coronary heart disease, 407 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 929 deaths from ‘all causes’.
The risk of sudden cardiac death was found to be 22% lower for men who had two to three sauna sessions per week and 66% lower for those visiting a sauna between four and seven times a week.
A similar pattern was seen for coronary heart disease, with two to three sessions reducing the risk of death by 23% and four to seven sessions by 48%.
Cardiovascular disease death rates were cut by 27% when men made two to three visits and halved when they made four to seven visits.
Men benefited more the longer they spent in the sauna.
The research, led by Dr Jari Laukkanen, from the University of Eastern Finland at Kuopio, is reported online in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
Why saunas should have this effect remains unknown.
The scientists wrote: ‘Further studies are warranted to establish the potential mechanism that links sauna bathing and cardiovascular health.’
Dr Rita Redberg, from the University of California at San Francisco, who is the journal’s editor-in-chief, said: 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.’