This is a common question asked by people who have recently undergone a heart issue. It was always a tough one, as some people can and some people shouldn’t. There are a number of concerns for heart patients including elevated heart rates, dehydration, electrolyte depletion, blood pressure issues to be aware of. I have provided you with some education of the benefits and risk. If in doubt of course ask your health care practitioner.
Benefits: Both steam rooms and dry saunas cause the blood vessels in the skin to dilate, in part accounting for the warm glow appearance afterwards. The blood flow out of the heart increases by 2 or more times after a 10 to 15 minute steam room or sauna exposure.
Risks: However, the blood flow to the internal organs actually decreases, because so much blood is being directed to the skin instead. This can be a problem for those with coronary heart disease. If the heart has to decide where to pump the blood it sends it to the skin to cool the body, and for those with severe blockages the heart then cannot feed itself it’s own oxygenated blood, and then can give symptoms of angina.
People with hard-to-control hypertension (high blood pressure) may experience worsening blood pressure in response to heat exposure. In addition, many blood pressure medications interfere with the normal response of the body to heat exposure.
Benefits: Heat has long been recognized as beneficial for folks with fibromyalgia, arthritis and other painful conditions.
Risks: If heat exposure is extreme, excessively prolonged, or if the individual has underlying irritation of the skin, heat can cause the equivalent of a sunburn, or thermal burn. In addition, steam exposure may be a concern if you have had recent surgery (particularly if sutures are still in place) or if you have an open or infected wound. Do not go in a steam room or sauna if you have open wounds.
Diaphoresis (sweating) –
Benefits: The average person will sweat about a pint during a 15 minute session in a sauna, depending on the person’s acclimatization to heat exposure. This has theoretical benefits for cleansing skin pores and some people believe sweating helps clear toxins from the body. This is not well proven and in many instances, is simply not true. In general, people with documented toxicant accumulation in their bodies benefit from specific medical treatment directed at the specific toxicants, rather than sweating. In addition, many of the toxicants of concern these days, for example: pesticides and many metals, asbestos, are not cleared very well through the sweat.
Risks: The effect of both wet and dry heat to increase fluid loss from the body can also be a problem, particularly if you are already somewhat dehydrated (e.g. after heavy exercise with inadequate fluid replacement or in response to the diuretic effects of caffeine, beverage alcohol, and medications (diuretics). Too much fluid loss can lead to electrolyte imbalance, heart arrhythmias, blood pressure changes, heart rate range changes, light headedness, and fainting.
Dehydration can be a problem in people who have blood vessel blockages to the brain and the heart The body lacks enough water to fill he blood vessels. Low fluid volume means lower blood pressure. A dehydrated person feels weak and dizzy especially when standing.
Some individuals experience an increase in their migraine headaches in response to dehydration.
There are a number of other medications that can affect the body’s normal response to heat either by inhibiting sweating or by otherwise interfering with the normal physiology, for example, some medications used for psychiatric conditions like schizophrenia. Use of stimulant medications for conditions like ADD or excessive sleeping also increases the health risks from heat exposure.
Dehydration also is dangerous on the kidneys, they will decrease the output of urine and low blood pressure with dehydration can damage the kidneys.
Benefits: Although exposure to heat increases energy consumption and thereby increases calorie burn, for example, up to 300 to 400 Kcal during a 20 to 30 minute sauna bath, thus helping to promote weight loss, there are clearly more healthful alternatives available, i.e. EXERCISE .
Risks: Individuals who have been cautioned to restrict exercise intensity by health care providers should be aware that the effects of heat are similar to those of exercise for increasing heart rate. Increasing energy consumption through increased work of the heart can be a concern for people with coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, valvular heart disease or heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias).
1- Avoid beverage alcohol and excessive caffeine intake and medications that may impair sweating or increase the health risks from heat exposure.
2- Stay in no more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
3- Cool down gradually after use. Avoid going rapidly from a hot to a cold environment, e.g. sauna cold shower as this increases the physiologic stress on the body considerably.
4- Drink 2 to 4 glasses of cool water after each session.
5- Don’t take a sauna or steam bath if you are ill, and if you find yourself feeling unwell while in a steam room or sauna, head for the door.
6- Ask your health care provider for advice and recommendations, if you have any concerns about potential health risks from steam room or sauna use.
HEALTH BENEFITS AND RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH USE OF
STEAM ROOMS AND SAUNAS, Doug Linz MD, Medical Director, TriHealth
If you take a blood thinner (such as Plavix) or blood pressure meds, the heat of a hot tub can combine with the medications to cause you to become dizzy, nauseated or even faint.
When you go in a hot tub, the heated water causes your blood vessels to dilate. In turn, blood pressure drops. If it falls too low, you can pass out.
It may be okay for short periods.
If you are able to carry out moderate exercise without symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath, you should be able to tolerate a sauna or soak in the hot tub.
When you get into cold water blood vessels constrict. Any sudden change in temperature leads to a considerable increase in the heart’s workload so moving back and forth between cold water baths and saunas or hot tubs is not a good idea.
Check with your doctor or health clinic to be on the safe side.