Taking a sauna may have greater health benefits than just relaxation and pleasure, with a new study linking frequent use of saunas to a substantial reduced risk for future stroke.
“The present study adds to emerging evidence that passive heat therapy such as sauna bathing could improve cardiovascular health and decrease the risk of vascular events,” the authors conclude.
The study, published online May 2 in Neurology, was conducted by an international group of researchers led by Setor K. Kunutsor, PhD, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, United Kingdom.
They note that sauna bathing has been shown to be associated with positive effects on blood pressure, lipid profiles, arterial stiffness, carotid intima-media thickness, and peripheral vascular resistance. Emerging evidence also suggests that it is linked to a reduced risk for hypertension, dementia, and cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.
Noting that an association between sauna bathing and risk for stroke has not yet been investigated, they conducted the current study in a cohort of middle-aged to elderly men and women from Eastern Finland.
For the study, the baseline habits of sauna bathing were assessed in 1628 men and women aged 53 to 74 years without a known history of stroke in the Finnish Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease prospective cohort study.
Habits of sauna bathing were assessed by questionnaires that asked about frequency and duration of sauna sessions and temperature in the sauna room. Three groups were defined: one session per week, two to three sessions per week, or four to seven sessions per week.
All baseline characteristics, including cardiovascular risk markers, were evaluated on the same day at study entry.