Heat has been used for its therapeutic health benefits for thousands of years. Sauna therapy originated in Finland and has historically been a huge part of Scandinavian culture. Often used for relaxation and enjoyment, saunas are now popular worldwide. But there’s more to sauna bathing than just relaxation. Research shows the numerous health benefits of regular sauna use, particularly for heart health and blood pressure.
Does sweating make your blood pressure go down?
Evidence supports regular sauna use to reduce the risk of many health conditions, including cardiovascular disease. Sauna therapy brings down blood pressure naturally. You might be wondering how the simple act of sweating can be so good for your health. Let’s take a closer look at the science.
Sauna therapy works by passively heating up the body. This puts a demand on your heart similar to moderate physical activity. In response, your body starts to sweat, and your blood vessels dilate. Your heart starts to pump out more blood at a faster rate. This response leads to positive changes in your cardiovascular system, nervous system, and immune system. Some of these physiological changes include:
- Reduced arterial stiffness, allowing blood to pump more easily through the vessels.
- Improved regulation of the nervous system, meaning less sympathetic activation (fight or flight).
- Sweat-induced detoxification to help your body battle the modern world’s onslaught of pollutants and chemicals.
- Reduced systemic inflammation so your immune system can work more effectively.
- Improved endothelial function to boost the health of the blood vessel walls.
- Increased bioavailability of nitric oxide, which is an important molecule for helping blood vessels dilate
- Less oxidative stress, meaning fewer free radicals floating around your body.
All of these physiological changes support lower blood pressure. Healthy blood pressure means a lower risk of mortality and sudden cardiac death.
Other benefits of sauna use
Sauna use is a natural way to help get your blood pressure in check without pharmaceuticals. In fact, many blood pressure medications act on the same physiological processes in the body as the sauna.
Pharmaceuticals also often act on other receptors in the body, leading to side effects. Unlike pharmaceuticals, sauna therapy is excellent for your overall health and longevity. Other health perks of sauna use include:
- Reduced risk of respiratory diseases, such as COPD, asthma, and pneumonia.
- Reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
- Relaxation and stress reduction, leading to improved mental health and sleep quality.
Is sauna therapy safe to lower blood pressure?
Many individuals with heart conditions worry about the safety of sauna therapy. These concerns make sense when considering that heat places a demand on the heart. However, research has proven the safety of sauna therapy, even for chronic systolic congestive heart failure patients.
The most common adverse effects are minor and include dizziness, dehydration, and headaches. Only stay in the sauna for an appropriate duration to prevent these effects. Also, drink plenty of water before and after your sauna session.
If you’re pregnant or have multiple health conditions, discuss sauna therapy with your doctor before trying it out.
Traditional saunas vs. infrared saunas
There are two major types of saunas: traditional and infrared. Each has similar health benefits and raises your core body temperature. However, they do this slightly differently.
Traditional saunas use a woodstove or electric heater to heat the sauna room to 160-200 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically, these saunas are used for 5-20 minute sessions, often cycled with cool-down periods. While these saunas have few adverse effects, some people find them intolerably hot. This makes for a less relaxing and comfortable experience.
Infrared saunas are a newer technology that may provide a more comfortable experience than traditional saunas. They use the power of infrared light to heat the body rather than the room directly. Infrared heat can penetrate more deeply into fat and muscle tissue. This means that it takes less heat to achieve the same physiological effects as traditional saunas.
Infrared saunas have an air temperature of around 100-150 degrees Fahrenheit. Lower heat may also help prevent the effects of dehydration and dizziness.
Infrared saunas have the added perk of boosting cellular health. Research shows that exposure to infrared light can benefit mitochondria, the energy producers of the body’s cells. Boosting mitochondrial health helps support the body in many ways, including preventing vascular aging.
What’s the best type of sauna for high blood pressure?
Not all saunas are created equal. Saunas may put out toxins, which can cancel out those heart-boosting benefits. For the most benefit to your blood pressure, make sure you choose the right sauna.
Some infrared saunas put out Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs). EMFs are a form of radiation that can create free radicals and cause oxidative stress. Long-term EMF exposure is dangerous, increasing your risk of chronic diseases and raising your blood pressure.
Certain saunas are also manufactured with wood finishes that can off-gas toxic fumes. These fumes are also known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and they can cause oxidative stress and inflammation.
The best type of sauna for high blood pressure is toxin-free. It is also important that you can access it regularly. Science suggests that frequent sauna sessions are necessary for the most benefit. A recent study showed that those with regular sauna use (four to seven times per week) have a 47 percent lower risk of high blood pressure than people who use saunas less than once per week.
Frequenting sauna spas can be pricey and inconvenient. No one has time for that. Fortunately, there are many options for an at-home sauna.
At Natural Heart Doctor, our research-backed recommendation is SaunaSpace. These saunas are compact and can easily store away. Most importantly, they’re free of off-gassing fumes and EMFs. Their Faraday model is the gold standard, while the Luminati offers a more budget-friendly option.
- If you’re new to sauna use, start with shorter sessions and work your way up to longer sessions.
- Aim to use the sauna for 30-minute sessions at least four times per week.
- Drink plenty of water before and after sauna use. Make sure it’s filtered and toxin-free!
- Don’t go into the sauna with a full stomach.
- Take a high-quality multivitamin like Cardio Multi to replace minerals.
- Make sure you leave enough time for a cool-down and cold shower.
While a high-quality sauna may seem like a significant investment, the return is your health and your 100 Year Heart. Imagine controlling your blood pressure and staying out of the doctor’s office — no pharmaceuticals needed. It’s impossible to put a price on that.
Eat Well · Live Well · Think Well
Medical Review 2022: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD