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Here’s a quiz for you.
What’s the only Finnish word in the English dictionary?
Here are a few clues:
It was first written about over 700 years ago…
The first one in the United States was built on the present site of Philadelphia’s City Hall…
And practiced several times a week, it can be as good for your heart as moderate exercise.
Sauna: the heat that heals
A sauna (pronounced “sow-na”) is a room built for the purpose of relaxing in dry heat. In Finland, ‘taking a sauna’ is a regular practice. Many Finns have one or two sauna rooms in their homes.
With an average heat of 180 degrees and an average humidity level of only 25 percent, a sauna provides dry heat for relaxing tired muscles, purifying the skin and relieving stress.
There are several types of sauna:
- Wood-burning – Uses wood to heat the room and the sauna rocks that give off heat
- Electrically heated – The room is heated by an electric heater attached to the floor
- Infra-red room – Far infra-red saunas (FIRS) use special lamps that emit light waves which heat a person’s body, rather than the entire room. Temperatures are usually lower than more traditional saunas.
- Steam room – Also meant for relaxing, a steam room uses high humidity and moist heat.
Sauna health benefits
When you sit in a sauna, your blood vessels widen and your heart rate increases, stimulating blood circulation. Used for a long enough time, the effects can be the same as a period of low to moderate exercise.
This increased stimulation can have a positive effect on quite a few health conditions:
- Arthritis – Blood flow to the joints can relieve pain, increase range of motion, and make joints more mobile.
- Stress relief – Sitting in a sauna relieves mental fatigue, releases muscular tension and promotes more restful sleep.
- Asthma and allergies – Sauna steam loosens mucus secretions and helps open airways. Lowered stress levels also reduce the likelihood of an asthma attack.
- Skin – Sauna steam opens clogged pores and reduces facial tension. Blood flow to the skin during a sauna can increase to as much as 75 percent of cardiac output (normal is around 15 percent). This floods the skin with nutrients.
- Alzheimer’s disease – In 2016, researchers in Finland published the findings of a 20-year study in the journal Age and Aging. The results linked sauna use to a lowered risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Among 2,315 healthy men ages 42 to 60, those who used the sauna two to three times per week were 22 percent less likely to develop dementia and 65 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
Sauna supports a healthy heart
At least five studies over the last decade or so have presented solid evidence that sauna can help reduce blood pressure, strengthen arteries and reduce the likelihood of heart attack.
- In 1989, Dr. Chuwa Tei developed Waon therapy, or “soothing warm therapy,” as a thermal therapy to treat chronic heart failure. In a 2011 study, Dr. Tei reported significantly increased cardiac strength and function in patients with chronic heart failure.
- A 2007 Israeli study involving patients with chronic heart failure found that regular sauna bathing improved cardiac function, as well as typical symptoms of CHF such as fatigue, heaviness of limbs, appetite loss, edema and constipation.
- Polish researchers saw a significant drop in total cholesterol and LDL in a group of healthy males who engaged in sauna bathing every one to two days. The change in blood cholesterol was similar to that achieved by moderately intense exercise.
All this good news probably makes you want to run to the nearest fitness center, gym or massage center and sign up for a soothing session in the sauna room. Before you do, though, take note of these precautions:
- No alcohol. Never take a sauna if you’ve had even one drink. Alcohol dehydrates the body. Combined with the dry heat of the sauna this can bring you to dangerously low hydration levels.
- Blood pressure. Sauna can cause blood pressure to fall, so check with your doctor if you have low blood pressure.
- Heart risk. If you’ve had a recent heart attack, check with your doctor before engaging in sauna.
- Drink! You must replace lost fluids right after a sauna. Drink two to four glasses of water during the hour following your sauna.
- Pregnant women should not use the sauna.
- If you are sick, or if you feel uncertain of your physical ability to withstand the conditions of the sauna, it is always wise to check with your doctor first.
Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!
- The effect of sauna bathing on lipid profile in young, physically active, male subjects — International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health
- Repeated sauna treatment improves vascular endothelial and cardiac function in patients with chronic heart failure — Journal of the American College of Cardiology
- Improvement of autonomic nervous activity by Waon therapy in patients with chronic heart failure — Japanese College of Cardiology
- Sauna bathing is inversely associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in middle-aged Finnish men — Age and Ageing
- The History of Sauna — Finlandia Sauna Products, Inc.,
- Beneficial effects of sauna bathing for heart failure patients — Experimental & Clinical Cardiology