Is Sauna Use Associated With Reduced Risk of CV Events?

Sauna use may be associated with a reduced risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD), coronary heart disease (CHD), cardiovascular disease (CVD), and all-cause mortality, however “further studies are warranted to establish the potential mechanism that links sauna bathing and cardiovascular health,” according to a study published Feb. 23 in JAMA: Internal Medicine.

Jari A. Laukkanen, MD, PhD, of the University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, and coauthors investigated the association between sauna bathing and the risk of SCD, fatal CHD, fatal CVD and all-cause mortality in a group of 2,315 middle-aged men, – aged 42 to 60 years old – from eastern Finland.

Results show that during a median follow-up of 20.7 years, there were 190 SCDs, 281 fatal CHDs, 407 fatal CVDs and 929 all-cause mortality events. “Compared with men who reported one sauna bathing session per week, the risk of SCD was 22 percent lower for two to three sauna bathing sessions per week and 63 percent lower for four to seven sauna sessions per week. The risk of fatal CHD events was 23 percent lower for two to three bathing sessions per week and 48 percent lower for four to seven sauna sessions per week compared to once a week. CVD death also was 27 percent lower for men who took saunas two to three times a week and 50 percent lower for men who were in the sauna four to seven times a week compared with men who indulged just once per week. For all-cause mortality, sauna bathing two to three times per week was associated with a 24 percent lower risk and four to seven times per week with a 40 percent reduction in risk compared to only one sauna session per week.”

Further, compared with men who spent less than 11 minutes in the sauna, the risk of SCD was 7 percent lower for sauna sessions of 11 to 19 minutes and 52 percent less for sessions lasting more than 19 minutes. “Significant inverse associates were also observed for fatal CHDs and fatal CVDs but not for all-cause mortality events.”

The authors note that “although previous population studies have suggested possible positive side effects of sauna bathing on cardiovascular health, this study extends these observations by finding that sauna bathing is inversely associated with the risk of SCD, CHD, CVD and all-cause mortality.” They conclude that “our results suggest that sauna bathing is a recommendable health habit, although further studies are needed to confirm our results in different population settings.”

According an editorial comment by Rita F. Redberg, MD, University of California, San Francisco, and editor-in-chief of JAMA Internal Medicine, “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.”

Clinical Topics: Arrhythmias and Clinical EP, SCD/Ventricular Arrhythmias

Keywords: Coronary Artery Disease, Coronary Disease, Death, Sudden, Cardiac, Habits, Leisure Activities, Longevity, Middle Aged, Steam Bath, Risk

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