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This podcast features Jari Laukkanen, M.D., Ph.D., a cardiologist and scientist at the Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio. Dr. Laukkanen has been conducting long-term trials looking at the health effects of sauna use in a population of over 2,000 middle aged men in Finland. The results? Massive reductions in mortality and memory disease in a dose-response fashion at 20-year follow-up.

In this approximately 25-minute conversation, @rhonda and Dr. Laukkanen discuss….

  • 00:00:37 - The association between sauna use and fatal cardiovascular outcomes
  • 00:00:37 - The inverse association between cardiovascular-related deaths and all-cause deaths.
  • 00:02:00 - How men that used the sauna 2-3 times per week had a 27% lower cardiovascular related mortality than men that used the sauna 1 time per week
  • 00:02:15 - How men that used the sauna 4-7 times per week had a 50% lower cardiovascular-related mortality than men that used the sauna one time per week.
  • 00:02:50 - The confounding factors Dr. Laukkanen and his colleagues had to adjust for, such as physical exercise, cholesterol, obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption, socioeconomic status.
  • 00:03:26 - The various types of cardiac-related deaths their reductions were shown in, including coronary artery disease, sudden cardiac death and more.
  • 00:05:00 - How one of the major mechanisms by which sauna use improves heart health is by reducing blood pressure and incident hypertension.
  • 00:05:40 - The mechanisms by which the sauna lowers blood pressure, which can occur via balancing of the autonomic nervous system, improvements in blood vessel function, decreases in arterial stiffness and compliance of arteries.
  • 00:06:17 - The increases in heart rate seen with sauna use that make it similar to moderate aerobic exercise in some ways (up to 150 beats/min!).
  • 00:06:56 - How time spent in the sauna was one of the more important factors for risk reduction with at least 20 minutes per session in a 174 F (79C) 4-7 times per week being a “sweet spot.”
  • 00:09:29 - The inverse, dose-response relationship between sauna use and all-cause mortality: 24% for 2-3 times per week, 40% for 4-7 times.
  • 00:10:00 - His newest study that now shows a reduction in risk in a similar dose-response fashion for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by around 65% for the most frequent sauna users.
  • 00:10:18 - The way sauna use increases heat shock proteins which repair damaged proteins and prevent protein aggregates and how this could end up being at least one potential molecular mechanism at play.
  • 00:13:03 - How sauna use increases growth hormone by 200-330%.
  • 00:14:10 - The patterns of sauna use and especially whether to sauna before or after you weight train.
  • 00:15:55 - The effect of sauna on mood which may be from improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness and possibly endorphins as well.
  • 00:18:39 - How sauna improves heart rate variability.
  • 00:20:04 - Cold-water immersion after sauna and a few cautionary words for extreme contrast therapy in people with a pre-existing heart condition that is currently unstable.

You can find Dr. Laukkanen on Twitter to let him know you loved the podcast by clicking here.

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    Does sitting in the hot sun give you the same benefits?

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      1) impressive that sauna use measured only at baseline predicts outcomes; 2) wonder what percent of people jumped into the cold after as you suggested; 3) any literature actually measuring dose response of HSP to Sauna exposure?

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        Hi Dr. Patrick

        Dr. Laukkanen mentions dry sauna at about 175 degrees Fahrenheit i am looking to buy a sauna but seems that infrared are better priced. They have a suggested operating range from 110-130 is there a suggested temperature for infrared saunas or is it better to go with the heated dry sauna?

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          Is there any reason to think that hyperthermic conditioning might benefit people with post-polio syndrome?

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            What a great interview! Thank you. If saunas are not available, would hot Jacuzzi do the same thing? Thanks again.—Dr. Allen Darbonne

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              Any thoughts Dr. Partrick on the pactrice of Bikram hot yoga? The sessions are often 90 minutes long at 95–108 °F.

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                Living in Arizona, we have built-in 110-115F temperatures in August and nearly there in July and September sometimes. I know it will be easy to experience heat stress during those months, as most of us hide from the heat then. Temperatures stay very high overnight as well in those months.

                However, sauna’s are few and far between because of our location. May I reasonably assume that a hot tub or spa can provide my heat stress in cooler months? Thanks for your thoughts. I’m curious in that one’s head is also heated in a sauna…

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                  Hi Dr Patrick

                  Following reads goofy to me but I am curious. Sauna is going to become a part of my fitness routine but is the heat harmful to my electronic devises? Should I put away my wristwatch and cell phone before going into sauna? Would it interfere with medical devices - insulin pump or pacemaker?

                  Thanks Gayle

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                    Hi Dr. Patrick,

                    Curious if the hormetic benefits of dry sauna use can be replicated via intense cardio/plyometrics while wearing layers in an otherwise room temperature environment? And given that evidence indicates that benefits from heat stress are to some degree dose dependent, would total sweat (as a percentage of bodyweight) be a reasonable metric to measure the effectiveness of a workout?

                    I ask b/c I’ve been training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in a gi (thick cotton kimono) for some time now. Though my gym hovers around 70 degree, by the end of a two hour session I certainly feel like I’ve replicated a sauna session.

                    Thanks! Gray

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                      I am curious about the fact that sauna use increases growth hormone. Would that mean someone who is trying to avoid a reoccurrence of Leiomyosarcoma should avoid saunas?

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                        While some of these changes in the hormonal milieu are interesting and fun to talk about… it is probably not a good idea to extrapolate out too far, especially when we’re talking about medical conditions like cancer.

                        That said, there is actually evidence out that that is suggestive that in the case of some cancers heat stress actually promotes apoptosis and, for that reason, may eventually be used as an adjunct to chemotherapy… but probably only under close clinical monitoring.

                        This is not meant to be medical advice! Please consult your oncologist. If you have a potentially life threatening disease, it is absolutely not worth the potential risk to be experimenting based off of some random musings on the internet.