SAUNA FOR HEART HEALTH, ANTI-AGING & PROTECTION FOR NEURODEGENERATION.May 20, 2020
Hot topic! Literally and figuratively: seems like everyone in the optimization/biohacking space is going crazy for sauna these days.
And rightly so. The data are in: it’s a good thing.
Asides being an amazing ritual (one of my favourites, especially because I live in the mountains where it’s usually colder than I’d like), regular sauna use is incredibly good for us.
An important, long-standing ritual in many cultures, sauna use is now exploding in the biohacking and health optimization world due to its incredible health benefits.
The incredible Dr. Rhonda Patrick* was the first scientist to turn me on this topic. I love her take on sauna use, which is also one of my all-time favourite recommendations for clients looking to boost their overall health and longevity, not to mention their cardiac health, triglycerides and blood markers.
This post was inspired by an incredible (and very lengthy) white paper she published recently. Here are some juicy tidbits:
“I think in the next 10 years that sauna bathing will become part of the standard of care for the prevention and treatment for heart disease and a variety of heart conditions. Several studies have shown that frequent sauna bathing (4-7 times per week, 174F for 20 min) is associated with a 50% lower risk for fatal heart disease, 60% lower risk for sudden cardiac death, 51% lower risk for stroke, and 46% lower risk for hypertension. Just a single sauna session has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve heart rate variability, and improve arterial compliance.”
Those are stunning numbers, from a stunning number of experiments over a long period of time. Solid!
Some of the positive benefits of the sauna on heart health may have to do with similar physiological changes as occur during physical exercise. ie. 50-70% of your blood flows away from the core to the skin, you start to sweat, your heart rate increases up to 150 bpm and your overall cardiac output (how hard the heart works to respond to the body’s need for oxygen) increases by 60-70%!
Rhonda goes on to say that frequent sauna use is associated with a 40% lower all-cause mortality and a 60% lower risk for Alzheimer's disease.
Whoa whoa whoa!!
(More incredible numbers, especially in the world of science, where significant changes are often in the range of just a few %!)
Some of the longevity benefits may be due to the increased production of “heat shock proteins,” which been shown to slow and in some cases prevent the progression of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. They’ve also been shown to slow muscle atrophy (shrinkage) and are associated with human longevity. These effects have also been conclusively demonstrated in lower organisms, including flies and worms -> heat stress increased their lifespans by as much as 15 percent!**
If you want to know more, or witness some sweet, nerdy banter between her and Joe Rogan, check out this podcast (scroll down for topics discussed - sauna talk starts @ 1hr 16min).
* Dr Rhonda Patrick, PhD (UC Berkeley) is someone I follow rather religiously. She is a rigorous and incredible researcher, whose values and integrity I admire. She is a cautious biohacker - being both a mother and active research scientist - so when she adopts a practice, it seems as though she has literally exhausted the research on it. Her extensive and amazing library of resources, including podcasts, news articles and primary research, can be found @ www.FoundMyFitness.com
** If you know about my research / have had the (mis)fortune of bearing my rants on the wonders of the fruit fly as a genetic model system (in which I was engrossed for about a decade), you’ll know I love such fine examples of evolutionarily conserved mechanisms between lower organisms, like flies and worms, to animals to humans. Where would we be with their invaluable leads??