Middle-aged men taking sauna bath four to seven times a week are 50% less likely to develop elevated blood pressure compared to men who take sauna only once a week, suggests a recent study. It is especially significant in India where studies show that 31% urban men suffer from hypertension.
According to the University of Eastern Finland researchers, regular sauna bathing improves endothelial function, i.e. the function of the inside layer of blood vessels, which has beneficial effects on systemic blood pressure. Sweating, in turn, removes fluid from the body, which is a contributing factor to decreased blood pressure levels. Previous studies had shown that sauna bathing could reduce the risk of heart disease and even dementia.
The team had previously shown that frequent sauna bathing reduces the risk of sudden cardiac death and cardiovascular and all-cause mortality. Elevated blood pressure is documented to be one of the most important risk factors of cardiovascular disease. According to researchers, underlying protective mechanisms may include the beneficial effects of regular sauna bathing on blood pressure.
The Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study (KIHD) involved 1,621 middle-aged men living in the eastern part of Finland. The participants without elevated blood pressure of over 140/90 mmHg or with diagnosed hypertension at the study baseline were included in this long-term follow-up study. Based on their sauna bathing habits, the men were divided into three sauna frequency groups: those taking a sauna once a week, 2-3 times a week, or 4-7 times a week.
The findings, during an average follow-up of 22 years, indicated that, 15.5% of men developed clinically defined hypertension. The risk of hypertension was 24% decreased among men with a sauna frequency of two-three times a week, and 46% lowered among men who had a sauna four-seven times a week. During sauna bathing, the body temperature may rise up to 2 °C degrees, causing vessels vasodilation. Sauna bathing may also lower systemic blood pressure due to overall relaxation of the body and mind. A recent analysis of the same study also revealed that those taking a sauna frequently have a lower risk of pulmonary diseases. The findings are published in the American Journal of Hypertension.