If you’ve ever spent time in a steam room, you know how invigorating it can be. But what you might not know is that sauna bathing could help your blood pressure as well. That’s the finding of a recent study that involved more than 1,600 men.
What the Study Said About Sauna Benefits
A Finnish study supports the idea that saunas could lower the risk of high blood pressure. 251 of the over 1,600 men who participated in the study suffered from high blood pressure. The study, published in 2017, was extensive. Scientists followed up with subjects over a 25-year period. Results showed men who followed a regular sauna bathing routine had a much lower chance of having high blood pressure problems. Those who visited a steam room two to three times a week saw their chances of having hypertension drop 24 percent. Those who went four to seven times a week had an almost 50 percent lower risk.1
One potential reason for the link, according to the researchers, is that a sauna’s warmth increases blood vessel flexibility. As a result, this increases blood flow and relaxation. This helps to lower blood pressure. Also, sweating in a sauna can act as a natural diuretic. Blood pressure problems are often treated with diuretics.
Sauna bathing, according to the study, can increase the temperature of the body by between 3 and 4 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature increase helps the blood vessels widen, improving blood flow. This also lowers blood pressure.
There is one important consideration about this study. It looked at sauna bathing in Finland. The average sauna temperature there is between 176-212 degrees Fahrenheit. Saunas or steam rooms that work at lower temperatures might not offer the same benefit. More research is also needed to see if the benefits translate to women and those who don’t follow a regular sauna therapy routine.
Blood Pressure 101
You already know that high blood pressure is bad for you, but you might not know why. This condition is a result of blood flowing through arteries at too high of a force. This problem greatly increases your chances of suffering a serious illness. About 75 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.2 Even worse, it’s a contributing factor in more than 410,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.3
Watching your diet, maintaining a healthy weight and getting plenty of exercise can all lower blood pressure. And it also looks like getting in a sauna on a regular basis can help as well.
How to Stay Safe in the Sauna
While being in a steam room seems to be safe for most people, there are a few safety precautions you need to keep in mind. In general, limit your time, in one sitting, to 10 minutes. Get out, take a cool shower, and then you can return for another session. Here are a few more of safety tips:
· Dehydration – Because you’re sweating in the steam room or sauna, you’re losing fluids. Your risk of dehydration increases. Be sure to drink plenty of water before and after your steam session.
· Reproductive considerations – When the temperature of the testicles rises, that can, in some cases, cause a reduction in sperm count. This effect is reversible, but not immediately. It may take time for the sperm count to return to normal.4 Sauna use during the early stages of pregnancy could lead to complications with the fetus.5
· Saunas and weight loss – If you are going to the sauna to lose weight, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Most of what you lose is water weight. Also, sweating too much can rob you of important minerals, such as calcium, magnesium and potassium. You need these nutrients in order for your heart to work normally.6
· Burn risk – Be careful not to accidentally touch any hot surface in a steam room. This could lead to a severe burn.
· Alcohol consumption – Never drink alcohol in a sauna, or go in a steam room intoxicated. If you pass out, that could lead to potentially deadly heat exposure.
· After the sauna – Many people have an urge to jump in a cold swimming pool after sauna bathing. They love the stimulating sensation provided by the extreme jolt they experience. But this could be risky, especially if you have any sort of problem with your circulatory system.7
Try a cool shower instead.
The Bottom Line
Again, there are some risks involved with regular sauna bathing. But as long as you use some common sense, you should be fine. Heading to the steam room on a regular basis can be invigorating and refreshing. And, as research shows, it can help lower blood pressure. Just make sure that you don’t combine sauna use and alcohol, and bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated.
You might also want to talk to your doctor first to stay on the safe side. This is especially important if you have any sort of history of kidney or heart problems, or you have a history of losing consciousness.
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