The latest analysis of the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Study has found that frequent sauna bathing is associated with a reduction in the risk for hypertension.

The study is based on a sample of 1,621 Finnish men aged 42 to 60 at baseline, without hypertension. The median follow-up time was 24.7 years; in this time there were 251 (15.5%) incident cases of hypertension, defined as a physician diagnosis of hypertension, systolic blood pressure (SBP) >140mm Hg, diastolic blood pressure >90mm Hg, or use of antihypertensive medication.

Compared to those who reported taking 1 sauna per week – using Cox regression analysis that adjusted for age, smoking, body mass index, and systolic blood pressure – the hazard ratio for incident hypertension in those reporting 2–3 and 4–7 sauna sessions was 0.76 (95% CI; 0.57 – 1.02) and 0.54 (95% CI; 0.32–0.91), respectively. 

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After further adjustments for glucose, creatinine, alcohol consumption, heart rate, family history of hypertension, socioeconomic status, and cardiorespiratory fitness, the hazard ratios remained similar; 0.83 for the 2 to 3 sauna per week group (95% CI; 0.59–1.18) and 0.53 (0.28 – 0.98) for the 4 to 7 saunas per week group.

The authors concluded that the reduction in hypertension risk may be an underlying mechanism for the decreased cardiovascular mortality risk previously demonstrated with sauna use. They also call for further studies to be conducted to better understand the effects of sauna bathing on cardiovascular function. 

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