Infrared Sauna vs. Heart Failure

Medical guidelines prohibit sauna use for heart failure patients. This is probably because an analysis of sauna deaths once showed “Most of victims were middle-aged men, 84% were under the influence of alcohol, and 27% had cardiovascular diseases.” To me, that analysis proves mainly that you shouldn’t use a sauna if you’ve been drinking. Nevertheless, the prohibition of sauna for heart patients is widespread and well known, and it applies to infrared sauna as well as conventional sauna. Recently, however, the association of sauna and heart failure has come into question. A study published in April 2015 found an association between sauna use and a reduced risk of sudden cardiac death, coronary heart disease, and fatal cardiovascular disease.

And now we have surprising information out of Japan. There since 1989 it has been common to treat heart conditions with infrared sauna. It’s called Waon therapy. Here is a description from the web page of Chuwa Tei, who was instrumental in developing it: “for 15 minutes patients are placed in a far-infrared-ray dry sauna, which is evenly maintained at 60 degrees centigrade [i.e., 140 degrees Fahrenheit]; subsequently they are kept on a bed to rest with sufficient warmth using blanket for an additional 30 minutes outside the sauna room. Lastly, oral hydration with water is used to compensate for water lost due to perspiration.”

Waon therapy, which uses infrared sauna rather than conventional sauna, is said to increase blood flow by dilating blood vessels and increasing the production of a protein called eNOS. A five-year study of 129 patients with chronic heart failure showed a fairly dramatic reduction — about half — in cardiac death and rehospitalization with Waon therapy.

So which is it? Heart patients should use infrared sauna or heart patients should not use infrared sauna? It’s probably relevant that the authors of the April 2015 study did not feel the reduction they found in heart conditions for sauna users warranted any stronger conclusion than the old “more study is needed” trope. I think we are just going to have to wait until the medical community develops some clarification on the question. In the meantime, here’s my advice to heart patients. Talk with your cardiologist before booking an infrared sauna session at Peak Recovery & Health Center. Please note that we don’t provide Waon therapy, just plain old infrared sauna.

If you’re not a heart patient, my gut feeling, based on recent research, is that regular infrared sauna sessions may help you to avoid becoming one. That’s not medical advice, just my opinion, which is based on the April 2015 study, the success of Waon therapy, and my understanding that infrared saunas are about seven times more effective than traditional saunas at detoxifying the body. By raising the body’s core temperature, infrared saunas can typically generate a sweat composed of 20% toxins vs. only 3% toxins in a traditional sauna. This means increased metabolism and regeneration of damaged tissues, both of which contribute to cardiovascular health.