The Heart Of The Sauna: Cardiovascular Superstar

I’ve been working with infrared saunas for many years now and have observed some fantastic results with patients that have had a multitude of heart issues. I’ve often wondered what the mechanism is for this change and speculated on how it might help but never looked into it in any greater detail.  Recently however I had the opportunity to delve a bit deeper and what I found has prompted me to write this blog.  The overall positive benefits of infrared saunas on heart disease is quite stunning and is something that I believe most people with heart disease should look into.

For example, did you know that research by T. Kihara shows that spending time in a sauna can reduce symptoms associated with congestive heart failure? When patients spent 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week for two weeks in a near infrared sauna it reduced premature heartbeats, episodes of arrhythmia and levels of hormones linked to heart damage.  Here are the references.

Kihara, T., et a1.,2002, Repeated sauna treatment improves vascular endothelial and cardiac function in patients with chronic heart failure, J Am Coll of Cardiolog , 39(March 6):7 54-7 59 .

Kihara, T. et al, 2002, Sauna therapy decreases cardiac arrhymias in patients with chronic heart failure, Am Heart Assn Scientific Sessions, Nov. 17-20, Chicago.

One of the interesting things to note with this study is that the infrared they used was near infrared.  Many times it appears that studies that have been done with near infrared are simply used to support the use of far infrared therapy.  In fairness this happens in reverse as well.  While more research will need to be conducted I think it is fair to say that both near and far infrared have proven health benefits when it comes to cardiovascular health.  More in depth research may indicate more details but at this point in time one can conclude that both work and the point is to get started using infrared saunas where applicable and suited for your health condition.  If in doubt about anything, including whether you should use infrared sauna, you should consult with your physician.

Another study was recently conducted where they looked at how infrared saunas effect the autonomic nervous system in patients with chronic heart failure.

Some background terminology is needed here.

Heart rate variability (HRV) This is how we measure stress in the human nervous system.  It is well established that there is a significant reduction of HRV in patients with chronic heart failure.  This is a problem as the higher the HRV the better.

An HRV study also has a frequency component that can also be assessed. These frequencies are called low frequency (LF) which is 0.04 to 0.15 Hz and high frequency (HF) which is 0.15 to 0.40 Hz.

The HF element reflects only parasympathetic action and the LF element is used as an overall indicator of sympathetic nervous system.

What this means is that we can watch what your nervous system is doing and how stress affects it.  In very general terms we want to keep our LF (sympathetic stress response) as low as possible.

The study by Kuwahata found that repeated sauna therapy sessions improved cardiac autonomic nervous activity in chronic heart failure patients.  It normalized it by decreasing the sympathetic  activity (LF) and increasing the parasympathetic activity (HF).  Not only this, but it also improved cardiac function.  In other words stress was decreased and heart function improved.

The study is titled Improvement of autonomic nervous activity by Waon therapy in patients with chronic heart failure and was published in the Journal of Cardiology (2011) 57, 100-10

These are just two studies that I found with a very quick search. 

The take away message for me is the following.

  1. Sauna therapy works when it comes to heart rehabilitation.
  2. It’s unfortunate that despite clear research studies almost no one considers this therapy when they have heart problems.

Hopefully this trend will start to reverse as more information is shared and more physicians become aware of how saunas may help their patients.


Feel free to contact us regarding the saunas we provide in Australia or if you have any questions.

Visitor Comments

Anne Lynch on 18 Oct 2018
Hi Todd,
I am a little unsure of whether my heart condition is one which prevents me from using the near infra red sauna (I sincerely hope not). I have Left Bundle Branch Block in my heart. I have had this investigated and the heart specialist has decided that I do not need any medication (nor surgery)for this and I have not had to re-visit him for at least 12-18 months, with no more further visits scheduled. He has just decided that it is a 'wait and see' type of scenario and does not consider my condition to be one worthy of too much concern.
Thanks for your time.
Kind regards,
Anne Lynch

Hi Anne,
With all heart conditions it is wise to get approval from your doctor. That being said if they don't seem concerned about you then I don't think it would be considered unstable and you should be fine. Of course being safe and consulting your health professionals is always recommended.

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