London: Regular sauna use is associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD) in people aged 50 years and above, a new study says.
This is because the sauna lowers blood pressure - a key factor for increasing risk of heart disease and death.
The study found that mortality from CVD among people who used a sauna four to seven times a week was 2.7 fatal CVD events, compared to 10.1 events in those who used a sauna once a week.
"More regular sauna use is associated with a lower risk of death from CVD in middle-aged to elderly women as well as in men," said Professor Jari Laukkanen from the University of Eastern Finland.
"There are several possible reasons why sauna use may decrease the risk of death due to CVD. Our research team has shown in previous studies that high sauna use is associated with lower blood pressure," said Laukkanen.
Additionally, sauna use is known to trigger an increase in heart rate equal to that seen in low to moderate intensity physical exercise - known to be good for patients with heart disease.
For the study, the researchers involved 1,688 participants with an average age of 63 years and followed them for 15 years. 51.4 per cent of the participants were women.
The findings, published in the journal BMC Medicine, showed that the number of new cases of mortality due to heart disease decreased as the time spent in the sauna per week increased.
Additionally, for those who spent over 45 minutes per week in the sauna in total, the risk was 5.1, whereas, for those who spent less than 15 minutes per week in the sauna in total was 9.6.
There is a need for further research to understand if the findings apply to other populations, the researchers noted.