HELSINKI, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- A study conducted by researchers from the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Jyvaskyla has shown that frequent sauna bathing can lower the risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD) in middle aged and elderly people.
The research, which has recently been published in the open access journal BMC Medicine, found that the mortality from CVD among people taking sauna four to seven times a week is 73 percent lower than those using sauna once a week, according to the press release issued by the University of Eastern Finland.
The findings were based on self-reported questionnaire and death cases from cardiovascular causes recorded in documents of death. A total of 1,688 people living in eastern Finland were involved in the research.
At the beginning of the study, the average age of the participants was 63 years old. Among them, 51.4 percent were woman and 49.5 percent were man. Data for the study were collected between 1998 and 2015.
The long-term study found the number of cases of CVD mortality decreased as the length of time spent in the sauna per week increased. For those who spent over 45 minutes per week in a sauna, the number of cases was 5.1 per 1,000 person years, while the number was 9.6 for those who spent less than 15 minutes in the sauna per week.
Jari Laukkanen, a professor at the University of Eastern Finland, said an important finding of the research was that 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, adding that previous studies were done mostly in men only.
There are several possible reasons behind the association between sauna use and the lower risk of death from CVD. The research team has shown in previous studies that high sauna use is associated with lower blood pressure. In addition, sauna use is known to trigger an increase in heart rate, the same as in low to moderate intensity physical exercise, explained Laukkanen.
However, the researchers pointed out that further research is needed to understand if the findings apply to other population outside the region.
Sauna is an essential part of the Finnish culture. There are over 3 million saunas in Finland, a country with only 5.4 million population. It means that every household has at least one sauna in average. For generations, Finns have believed that sauna has many health benefits.