Frequent sauna use protects men against cardiac death

Frequent – even daily – taking a sauna can reduce the risk of cardiac death, according to a recent study carried out at the University of Eastern Finland. The 20-year follow-up study discovered that men taking a sauna 4-7 times a week were 63% less likely to experience a sudden cardiac death than those taking a sauna once a week. Furthermore, the occurrence of death due to coronary artery disease and other cardiac events, as well as overall mortality, were less frequent in the group taking saunas several times a week.

The effects of sauna use on mortality were studied in the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study (KIHD), involving more than 2,000 middle-aged men living in the eastern part of Finland. Based on their sauna-taking habits, the study participants were divided into three groups: those taking a sauna once a week, those taking a sauna 2-3 times a week, and those taking a sauna 4-7 times a week. The more frequently saunas were taken, the less likely were sudden cardiac deaths, deaths due to coronary artery disease and other cardiac events, as well as deaths due to other reasons.

Moreover, the time spent taking a sauna was linked to the risk of cardiac death. Those who spent more than 19 minutes in the sauna at a time were 52% less likely to experience a sudden cardiac death than those spending only 11 minutes in the sauna at a time. The risk of death due to a cardiac event was also otherwise smaller in those spending longer times in the sauna.

According to Docent Jari Laukkanen, the study leader, the mechanisms of why taking a sauna protects the heart are not yet fully understood, and further research is still required. However, taking a sauna may reduce blood pressure and maintain blood vessel elasticity.

The findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine. 

For further information, please contact: Docent Jari Laukkanen, University of Eastern Finland, Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, tel. +358505053013, jariantero.laukkanen (at) uef.fi

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The University of Eastern Finland, UEF, is one of the largest universities in Finland. The activities of the UEF underscore multidisciplinarity, and the university is especially strong in research related to forests and the environment, health and well-being, and new technologies and materials. The UEF offers teaching in more than 100 major subjects. In addition to the high standard of teaching, the university offers its students a modern study environment, which is under constant development. The university comprises four faculties: the Philosophical Faculty, the Faculty of Science and Forestry, the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies. The university’s campuses are located in the heart of beautiful eastern Finland in Joensuu, Kuopio and Savonlinna. The UEF is home to approximately 15 000 students and nearly 2 800 members of staff.

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