London: Frequent sauna bathing may help regulate blood pressure — the major risk factor for heart disease — in men, a study has showed.
The findings showed that the risk of developing elevated blood pressure was nearly 50 per cent lower among men who had a sauna four to seven times a week compared to men who had a sauna only once a week.
In men with a sauna frequency of two to three times a week there was a decrease of 24 per cent.
Sauna bathing decreases the systemic blood pressure through different biological mechanisms.
During sauna bathing, the body temperature may rise up to 2 degrees Celsius, causing vessels’ vasodilation — the dilatation of blood vessels, which decreases blood pressure, said Francesco Zaccardi, from the Diabetes Research Centre in the University of Leicester.
Regular sauna bathing improves endothelial function, i.e. the function of the inside layer of blood vessels, which has beneficial effects on systemic blood pressure, Zaccardi added in the paper published in the American Journal of Hypertension.
In addition, those taking a sauna frequently may also have a lower risk of pulmonary diseases — lung diseases that block airflow and make it difficult to breathe.
Previous research has shown that frequent sauna bathing reduces the risk of sudden cardiac death, and cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.
For the study, the team involved 1,621 middle-aged men living in the eastern part of Finland.
Based on their sauna bathing habits, men were divided into three sauna frequency groups: those taking a sauna once a week, two to three times a week, or four to seven times a week.
During an average follow-up of 22 years, 15.5 per cent of the men developed clinically defined hypertension, the researchers said.