Is Sauna Bathing Protective of Sudden Cardiac Death?
Jari A. Laukkanen, Setor K. Kunutsor
Sauna is good for your health, and your heart.
“Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a global public health burden accounting for 15–20% of all deaths.” “Sauna bathing creates a sense of wellbeing, relaxation, hedonia, or camaraderie, which reduces stress, a potential trigger of SCD.” “Except for two studies published by our group, there is no other evidence on the long-term effects of regular sauna bathing on the risk of SCD in the general population. Laukkanen and colleagues employed the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease (KIHD) prospective study of 2,315 middle-aged Finnish men whose self-reported sauna bathing habits were assessed at baseline and were followed over a period of 20.7 years. The study found increased frequency and duration of sauna bathing to be inversely associated with the risk of SCD and other CVD outcomes, as well as all-cause mortality.35 Compared with men who took one sauna bathing session per week, the hazard ratio of SCD was 0.37 (95% confidence interval, 0.18 to 0.75) for men who took 4 to 7 sauna bathing sessions per week. Also, compared with men having sauna bathing sessions lasting b11 min, the hazard ratio for SCD was 0.48 (95% confidence interval, 0.31 to 0.75) for sessions lasting N19 min.”
What is noteworthy is that all of the 2,315 Finnish men who reported their sauna use were all partaking in traditional Finnish sauna. It is noted that traditional Finnish saunas comprise these critical elements:
- Temperature: generally 80 °C to 100 °C.
- Ventilation: “A good sauna should have efficient ventilation (i.e., the air should change 3 to 8 times per hour.”
- Steam (löyly): adding water to the sauna stones to temporarily increase the humidity of the sauna hot room.