A good sweat could be the secret to lower blood pressure, according to a study in the American Journal of Hypertension, which found regular sauna use may reduce the risk of hypertension. The study included data from 1,621 men, aged 42 to 60, participating in the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Study, a prospective-cohort study in Eastern Finland. These participants, who did not have hypertension when they entered the study, reported how frequently they visited the sauna on questionnaires. Researchers followed the men for an average of 24.7 years, recording new cases of hypertension, which were identified through reports of physician diagnosis, having systolic blood pressure (SBP) over 140 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure over 90 mm Hg, or use of anti-hypertensive medication. After adjusting for baseline age, smoking habits, BMI, and SBP, researchers found that:
Visiting the sauna two to three times weekly was associated with a 24% reduced risk of hypertension compared with visiting once weekly.
Visiting the sauna four to seven times weekly was associated with a 46% reduced risk of hypertension compared with visiting once weekly.
Even after adjusting for other risk factors, such as alcohol consumption, family history of hypertension, and fitness level, more sauna visits still correlated with a significantly reduced risk of hypertension.
How might regular sauna use help moderate blood pressure? Researchers are still searching for an answer; however, some posit that a sauna’s relaxing nature may help, or that the heat may improve blood vessel flexibility. Another idea is that sweating may act as a natural diuretic by removing excess fluid, and thus lowering blood pressure by reducing blood volume. While we wait for more research on this association, it can’t hurt to calm yourself in a sauna.
Source: American Journal of Hypertension