Studies have shown that the use of sauna may be beneficial for people suffering with heart-related problems, especially high blood pressure.
How Does Sauna Lower Blood Pressure?
National Center for Biotechnical Information, published a PubMed.gov study showing that when hamsters with cardiovascular heart problems underwent four weeks of far infrared sauna therapy, the levels of nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) in their bodies increased. This is significant since nitric oxide synthase is known to lower blood pressure.
The study noted that there was no increase in the nitric oxide synthase levels in the control group of hamsters that did not undergo this sauna therapy.
Nitric oxide lowers blood pressure in animals and humans because of its ability to dilate restricted blood vessels. This vital enzyme is essential for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system.
Specifically, the hamster experiment exposed the animals for 15 minutes daily to a far infrared-ray heat lamp dry sauna environment, followed by a rest period out of the sauna for 30 minutes. The temperature in the sauna was 102.2 degrees F (39 degrees C). During the after-sauna rest period, the temperature was reduced to 86 degrees F (30 degrees C).
The normal temperature setting for infrared saunas is between 100 and 130 degrees F. However, it’s the special penetrating effect from the lamp’s infrared rays, which penetrate the body to up to an inch and a half, which gives the most benefit to the body.
Muscle tissues, organs and joints seem to respond to this deep heat in a positive way. The heart rate and blood volume being pumped increases, nourishing the cells of the body with nutrients carried by the blood.
Does a Sauna Raise Blood Pressure?
It has been shown that alternating between a hot sauna and a cold shower can raise blood pressure.
Some people have tendency to want to cool down quickly and follow the sauna with a cold rather than a cool shower. It can cause an unwanted rise in blood pressure.
Repeated cycles of hot sauna and cold showers are not recommended for people who normally suffer from high blood pressure However, cycles of hot sauna and gently cool showers do not tend to raise blood pressure.
The infrared sauna is not designed to reach the higher 200 degree F temperatures of the hot rock saunas. Therefore, it’s common to be able to remain in the infrared sauna for up to 30 minutes without getting that stuffy, need air feeling.
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Since the temperatures are lower in the infrared saunas, the concern about elevated blood pressure is diminished because temptation to move from the hot sauna environment to a cold condition is reduced.
Different Types of Sauna
Saunas differ in the type of heat they generate, such as steam, smoke and dry. Some saunas, such as hot rock saunas, heat the air with steam. Infrared saunas use heat lamps or heat panels to heat the body, not the air.
Portable saunas are tent like constructions that use steam or infrared to heat the body, while the head remains out of the tent. Portable infrared saunas are pretty popular, since they are cheaper than the normally pretty pricey infrared saunas. They also take up very little space. You can also add herbs to the steam portable saunas to let the heat open up your pores, and let the herbal steam cover your body.
Outdoor saunas typically use heated rocks to generate heat, that you can throw water on to raise the heat.
Power sources for the saunas can also vary, including electricity, gas, wood or even solar power. In the electric units, the temperature is more easily regulated, often using a digital controller.
Saunas are particularly popular in Finland, with saunas found in one-quarter of the homes. They change the dry heat to wet heat by pouring water over hot rocks.
Saunas can be the size of a closet or an entire room. The smaller ones accommodate 2 people, whereas the larger ones can be used by the entire family at the same time.
The walls are often made of wood, such as hemlock. Plywood or other treated wood are not used due to the toxic potential, especially when heated.
The far infrared sauna units are becoming very popular. They are affordable and easily installed into an existing home. They are referred to as far infrared saunas because the particular infrared light waves that are produced are located on the far side of the light spectrum.
Other Benefits of a Sauna
In addition to lowering blood pressure through dilating the blood vessels, some countries, such as Finland, adhere to the tradition that a sauna is to remain a stress-free environment. Conversation among participants is welcome – but nothing of a controversial nature. The precious time spent in the sauna is cherished as a time of cleansing, health, peace and relaxation.
Saunas are by many believed to have detoxifying capabilities. Impurities in the body are supposedly sweated out during the short time in the sauna. This benefit has been pegged to the studies that show that using a sauna regularly and properly can lead to longevity.
The ability of a sauna to increase the heart rate should be of interest to people who cannot exercise because of a disability. When we exercise, our heart rate increases and the blood flows through our bodies at a faster-than-normal pace.
Similarly, when we sit in a sauna, the heat causes our heart rate to increase as well as our blood vessels to open. This results in increased blood flow throughout the body to the same level experienced when engaged in moderately intensive physical exercise, such as a brisk walk.
Calories are burned and weight can be lost during a sauna session because of the increased heart rate and sweating. Some “bathers” increase this effect by lifting light hand-held bar bells during the sauna sessions.
Sauna users comment on the wonderful warming feeling that stays with them after using an infrared sauna, which penetrates the skin and warms the muscles. Those that live in a cold climates experience an enhanced sense of well being by using the sauna after working outside.
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