Frequent saunas may have beneficial effects on vascular health

Taking frequent saunas may be linked to a lower risk of stroke, according to a study published in the May 2, 2018, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study was conducted in Finland, where saunas originated and nearly every home has one.

"These results are exciting because they suggest that this activity that people use for relaxation and pleasure may also have beneficial effects on your vascular health," said study author Setor K. Kunutsor, PhD, of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. "Sauna bathing is a safe activity for most healthy people and even people with stable heart problems. More research is needed to confirm this finding and to understand the ways that saunas affect stroke risk."

The study involved 1,628 people with an average age of 63 with no history of stroke who were followed for an average of 15 years. Participants filled out questionnaires about how often they took saunas and other factors, such as physical activity and alcohol use. Their cholesterol, blood pressure and other factors that could affect stroke risk were also tested at the beginning of the study.

During the study follow-up, 155 people had a stroke. The rate of stroke per 1,000 person-years was 8.1 for those who took one sauna per week, compared to 7.4 for those who took two to three sauna per week and 2.8 for those who took four to seven saunas per week.

Those who took a sauna four to seven times a week were 60 percent less likely to have a stroke than people who took only one sauna per week. The results were the same after researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect stroke risk, such as high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes and physical activity.

"Previous studies have shown that sauna bathing may be associated with a reduced risk of high blood pressure, dementia and death from cardiovascular disease, but this is the first study on sauna use and the risk of stroke," Kunutsor said. "Saunas appear to have a blood pressure lowering effect, which may underlie the beneficial effect on stroke risk."

Kunutsor noted that the study is observational, and does not show a cause-and-effect relationship between sauna use and lower stroke risk. It only shows an association.

A limitation of the study was that the study was based on traditional Finnish saunas and the results cannot be applied to other types of heat therapy such as infrared heat exposure, steam rooms and hot tubs. Kunutsor also said that since only a few people in the study never took saunas, the researchers could not compare people who used saunas to people who never used saunas.

Evidence suggests some people should not use saunas, including people who recently had a heart attack and those with unstable angina, or chest pain. Elderly people with low blood pressure should use caution when taking a sauna.


  1. Almost Heaven Group Almost Heaven Group United States says:

    It's important to pay attention the the end of the article, which states this study "cannot be applied to other types of heat therapy such as infrared heat exposure".  This is also the case with "infrared saunas", which are not actually saunas in the first place.

    Infrared enclosures will never provide the same environment as a true, traditional sauna, and can not claim any of the same health benefits (or studies).  In fact, some infrared enclosures have been recalled due to posing a fire hazard with faulty wiring, and the possibility of toxic fumes from interior finishes that should have never been used.

    Traditional sauna bathing has many time tested health benefits, and studies are continually coming out proposing even more.  The same is not true for phony "infrared saunas".  It's easy to tell the difference between a traditional sauna and infrared enclosure.  A traditional sauna will have a sauna heater with hot rocks on top, onto which you can sprinkle water.  An infrared enclosure does not use any rocks, and can not employ any type of addition of water.  They typically use an electric heater built into the wall.

    Stick to a traditional sauna, and enjoy the mental and physical boosts from your sauna bath.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
America's looming heart crisis: Study forecasts alarming rise in cardiovascular disease and stroke by 2050