Cardiovascular Health and Far Infrared Sauna Therapy

Submitted by Dr. Shelby Entner

Cardiovascular diseases are defined as diseases and injuries of the cardiovascular system; the heart, the blood vessels of the heart and the system of blood vessels (veins and arteries) throughout the body and within the brain. Stroke is the result of a blood flow problem in the brain and it is considered to be a form of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease currently accounts for the death of more Canadians than any other disease, nearly 71,000 deaths (31% of all deaths) yearly. This means that approximately every 7 minutes, someone dies from heart disease or stroke in Canada.

Far Infrared Sauna Therapy (F.I.R.S.T.) has been used successfully to treat cardiovascular diseases and has been studied in many leading medical journals. Since Asian cultures have been using infrared therapies for over a century, many of the most recent and promising studies have been coming from the medical schools and journals in Japan and China. In a 2005 article from the Journal of Cardiac Failure, Japanese researchers studied the use of Far Infrared Sauna Therapy (F.I.R.S.T.) with patients who had systolic congestive heart failure, (CHF) which occurs when the heart isn’t able to pump blood normally. As a result, there is not enough blood flow to provide the body’s organs with oxygen and nutrients. The term “heart failure” does not mean that the heart stops beating completely, but that the heart is not working as efficiently.

The study included 15 hospitalized patients who used a Far Infrared Sauna Therapy (F.I.R.S.T.) daily for four weeks. Thirteen of the fifteen patients had reduced blood pressure and an increased exercise tolerance after only four weeks of therapy.

Their ejection fraction (the fraction of blood pumped out of ventricles with each heart beat) was significantly increased and they had an increase in oxygen uptake. Repeated 60 degrees Celsius sauna sessions were safe and improved symptoms and exercise tolerance in chronic CHF patients.

In a 2009 study from the Journal of Cardiology, researchers studied how sauna treatment could help patients with arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). Over thirty patients who had been monitored with 24 hour Holter monitors where randomized into groups. Those who received two weeks of daily, fifteen-minute treatments with Far Infrared Sauna Therapy (F.I.R.S.T.) had a substantial decrease in abnormal heart rates over a monitored 24 hour period. The total number of PVCs (premature ventricular contractions) dropped down to approximately 900 abnormal beats compared to the non-sauna group who had over 3,000 abnormal beats in the same time period.

In a 2001 study from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, sauna therapy was studied to evaluate if it improved endothelial (the thin layer of cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels) function in patients with coronary risk factors such as elevated cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes and smoking.

Twenty five men with these risk factors had a substantial improvement in vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels), reducing turbulence in the blood vessels and allowing blood to be pumped farther. This study also showed that Far Infrared Sauna Therapy (F.I.R.S.T) can be beneficial for patients who have an increased risk for atherosclerosis.

There are numerous studies that have been published that show that using F.I.R.S.T can be a successful and supportive therapy for patients who are currently faced with cardiovascular disease. From a preventative point of view, using Far Infrared Sauna Therapy (F.I.R.S.T) can be a pro-active, safe and enjoyable way to decrease risk factors for stroke, heart attack and atherosclerosis. For those people who are undergoing care for cardiovascular conditions, infrared sauna has been clinically shown to safely improve outcomes and quality of life.