Boost Your Cardiovascular Health: Circulatory Benefits of IR Saunas

6 minute read

cardiovascular health

Our sauna-savvy readers already know how infrared (IR) saunas can aid athletes, help with weight loss, and even enhance cancer treatment

But did you know that IR saunas also can improve cardiovascular health?

Relaxing in an infrared sauna can help improve circulation, lower blood pressure, and prevent or manage cardiovascular disease. It may even reduce your chances of having a stroke. 

IR Saunas Can Improve Circulation

When you step into an infrared sauna to bask in its warm glow, your body immediately benefits from increased circulation.

Infrared saunas gently warm your body with invisible light that penetrates up to one and a half inches below your skin. This warming effect increases circulation by initiating the body’s natural cooling response.

One way your body cools itself off is by expanding its small blood vessels, called arterioles. Arterioles connect your arteries to the tiny capillaries that permeate your body's tissues.

The expansion of your arterioles is called "arteriolar vasodilation." Arteriolar vasodilation helps blood flow to your arms, legs, and skin so that you lose more heat to the air. More blood flows to your capillaries, moving more oxygen and nutrients throughout your body.

Beyond increasing peripheral blood flow, infrared saunas may even improve brain circulation. One study found that IR sauna therapy boosts cerebral blood flow and relieves symptoms from chronic fatigue syndrome.

IR Saunas Can Lower Your Blood Pressure

Nearly fifty percent of American adults have high blood pressure. Want to avoid joining that statistic? Spending time in your infrared sauna could help.

There is a fair body of evidence that regular use of a traditional Finnish sauna helps maintain a healthy blood pressure. But a 2018 Mayo Clinic review on the benefits of sauna bathing suggests that the evidence is still too limited to be conclusive.

Evidence that infrared sauna exposure protects against hypertension is more ambiguous. Two recent meta-analyses came to opposing conclusions about the effect of IR sauna use on blood pressure.

The first of these articles, released in 2018, analyzed data from seven studies of IR sauna therapy for heart failure. No significant effect on blood pressure was found in the combined results of those studies.

Conversely, a 2020 meta-analysis found that traditional and infrared saunas significantly lower blood pressure. This analysis included studies of people at risk of cardiovascular disease as well as those who already had it. People who spent fifteen minutes in a sauna five to ten times per week had lower blood pressure for up to a month after.

More data is needed to properly understand the relationship between IR sauna use and blood pressure. Currently available research suggests that infrared saunas may help with blood pressure management.

IR Saunas Can Help Prevent and Manage Cardiovascular Disease

Keeping up your sauna habit is an easy way to help keep your heart healthy. Three decades of research has shown that infrared saunas can be a powerful defense against cardiovascular disease.

Stress reduction is a simple yet powerful way that IR sauna use can help prevent cardiovascular problems. Stressed-out adults are up to 1.6 times more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease or stroke than their peaceful peers. Sauna bathers universally report that they use saunas for stress reduction and relaxation.

As we mentioned above, infrared sauna treatments can reduce blood pressure among people at risk of cardiovascular disease. Sauna therapy offers an additional layer of protection with very little effort from the practitioner. Making treatments easy and enjoyable helps high-risk individuals adhere to their care plans.

Do you or your loved ones already suffer from cardiovascular disease? Not to worry! Infrared saunas are safe for most people who have heart or circulatory problems.* In fact, the Mayo Clinic gives them the green light for being free of adverse effects when used appropriately.§

Scientists have studied IR sauna treatments for cardiovascular disease since the 90s. The results are encouraging. IR sauna therapy can improve the lives of those suffering from heart failure or peripheral arterial disease.

How does it work? Researchers believe that IR sauna therapy acts like gentle exercise. The heat of an IR sauna gets your heart pumping without being too strenuous. This mild stimulation is enough to improve the biomarkers of cardiovascular disease.

IR Saunas Can Reduce the Likelihood of Stroke

With so many cardiovascular benefits, stepping into your IR sauna should be a no-brainer. But there’s more! Scientists have found that sauna bathing may have implications on brain health when it comes to lowering the risk of stroke.

We were only able to find studies linking use of traditional Finnish saunas to a reduced risk of stroke. However, the two types of sauna most likely have a comparable outcome in reducing this risk. In fact, several types of heat therapy have similar effects in treating cardiovascular conditions.

Although the relationship between sauna use and stroke risk is under-researched, the results are compelling. A study of Finnish seniors observed that four to seven weekly sauna baths correlated with a 62% lower risk of stroke compared to sauna bathing just once a week.

Critics have pointed out that these results could have been skewed by a “healthy volunteer bias.” Bias or not, the risk-to-reward ratio of keeping up your sauna sessions is an easy calculation.

The Benefits of IR Saunas Know No Bounds

With few exceptions, people of any age or state of health can enjoy sundry rewards to their cardiovascular and holistic well-being. It’s as simple as stepping into an infrared sauna for just fifteen minutes a day. 

Be sure to stop by our IR sauna shop to find the perfect sauna for your home. And don’t forget to let us know how your IR sauna ritual has enhanced your heart-healthy lifestyle by commenting below! 

* Don’t use a sauna if you have recently had a heart attack, have unstable angina pectoris, or have severe aortic stenosis.  Ask your doctor if you don't know whether this applies to you.

* Sauna bathing during or after drinking alcohol can cause dangerous cardiovascular side effects, such as abnormal heart rhythms, low blood pressure, and cardiac arrest. We recommend holding off on your libations until after your sauna session. 

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