A hot new therapy?
From Chicago, Ill., at a meeting of the American Heart Association
Spending time in a sauna improves heart function in people with chronic heart failure, report researchers from Japan. For 2 weeks, 20 people spent 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week, in a 60C sauna and then 30 minutes lying on a bed wrapped in blankets to maintain an increased body temperature. The other 10 volunteers lay on a bed without blankets at room temperature for 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
At the beginning of the study, people in the two groups had comparable heart-failure symptoms. After 2 weeks, however, volunteers who got the sauna treatment experienced significantly fewer premature heartbeats and episodes of irregular heart rates compared with the patients who didn’t get the saunas.
The sauna-treated volunteers also had lower blood concentrations of two hormones linked to heart damage, says Chuwa Tei of Kagoshima University. Tei notes that the saunas used in this study were heated with infrared heat lamps and were cooler than the saunas in many Western countries.
Tei proposes that the benefits of saunas may even extend patients’ lives. Earlier this year, he reported that hamsters with heart failure regularly put into a heated sauna live longer than hamsters placed in a sauna that wasn’t turned on.
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