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saunaWhen combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle, relaxing in a hot sauna may help reduce your risk of death from heart disease. This is what researchers in Finland found after following more than 2,300 middle-aged men for roughly 20 years.

The study looked at how often and how long the participants spent time in the sauna and revealed that the men who visited the sauna more frequently were less likely to die from heart disease, especially if they went more than once a week for longer periods.

According to the study results, 2 to 3 sauna sessions per week was associated with a 22 percent lower risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD), while 4 to 7 weekly sessions was associated with 63 percent lower risk. Similar percentages were seen with the risk of fatal coronary heart disease (23 percent lower for 2 to 3 weekly sessions and 50 percent lower for 4 to 7 weekly sessions) and the risk of death from any causes (24 percent and 40 percent, respectively). Researchers also determined that sessions lasting longer than 19 minutes were the most beneficial—lessening the overall risk of SCD by 52 percent.

“There was an inverse relationship between sauna and (cardiovascular disease) risk, meaning that more is better,” said senior author and cardiologist Dr. Jari Laukkanen. Still, whether it has to do with improved circulation or the natural stress relieving benefits of sitting in the sauna, he and his team stressed that using the sauna should not replace other heart-healthy habits such as diet and exercise, but rather complement them as part of an overall heart health regimen.

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