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Sauna Therapy for my Congestive Heart Failure

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“Sauna bathing has the potential to be an effective therapeutic option for patients with hypertension or Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), as well as for patients with known coronary artery disease risk factors.”

I underwent extensive conventional cancer therapies in 1995. I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure (CHF) in late 2010. At the time I was focused on and concerned with the chronic atrial fibrillation. If you’ve ever experienced afib then you know how scary it is, at least at first.

All of my heart valves (mitral, tricuspid, pulmonary)  have been normal based on echos from 2010, 2016, 2018 and early 2019. The issue has been my ascending aorta and aortic root. While both the AO and AR are dialated, both seem to be stable over these past nine years.

So the question is, how long can a person live/remain stable, with heart disease? 

I’ve changed my diet, supplementation, exercise regimen, sleep, etc. I’ve adopted heart-healthy therapies in every way that I can find. For example, I began taking CoQ10 several years ago based on several studies I found. The study below documents the benefit of sauna (whole body hyperthermia) for my heart.

I used to take a sauna once a week mainly to relax. After I found studies documenting the benefit to my blood pressure, ejection fraction, LV end-diastolic dimension, etc. I am adding a sauna to my daily (moderate) exercise regimen. When I say moderate, I mean moderate. I’m on an elliptical for a while but I move pretty slowly.

Long-story short, my goal is to manage my heart disease without conventional medications… for the rest of my life. As of the writing of this post, I am 59. Conventional heart medications are fine for most people. Not me.

I took warfarin for a couple of years (’99-’00) and hated it. I was tired all the time and took myself of it once I read about the long-term side effects. I was also on a beta-blocker for less than a week when I was first diagnosed with afib. Again, I felt awful and the list of short and long term side effects is long.

I’m about 9 years into my goal of non-toxic heart disease management. Scroll down the page and post me a note if you have any interest in learning more about evidence-based but non-toxic heart health therapies.

I’ll keep you posted, thanks.

David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

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Beneficial effects of sauna bathing for heart failure patients

“Generally, the sauna bathing has been contraindicated for patients with chronic heart failure. However, it has been well tolerated and improved hemodynamics has been shown in patients with chronic heart failure after a single exposure and after a four-week period of sauna bathing (five days per week).

  • Left ventricular ejection fraction increased from 24±7% to 31±9% and
  • left ventricular end-diastolic dimension decreased from 66±6 mm to 62±5 mm after four weeks…

In a sauna, the skin temperature increases rapidly to approximately 40°C (,,), whereas the increase in rectal temperature depends on heat exposure (). Sweating begins quickly and reaches its maximum at approximately 15 min, with an average total secretion of 0.5 kg (,,).

  • Skin blood flow increases from 5% to 10%, becoming 50% to 70% of the cardiac output,
  • while blood flow to internal organs decreases ().
  • Cardiac output increases by 60% to 70% in relation to the increase in heart rate (),
  • while cardiac stroke volume does not change (,)…

Sauna bathing has the potential to be an effective therapeutic option for patients with hypertension or CHF, as well as for patients with known coronary artery disease risk factors. The common mechanism of action is improvement in vascular endothelial function, which reduces cardiac preload and after-load.

It would also be interesting to know – provided the improvement is permanent – whether some of the damage on the cardiovascular system can be reversed by sauna therapy. Sauna bathing can be risky in patients receiving alcohol, beta blockade and nitrates ()…

Severe aortic stenosis, unstable angina pectoris and recent MI are contraindications to sauna bathing (). Decompensated heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia are relative contraindications (). Elderly persons prone to orthostatic hypotension should be cautious in the sauna because a decrease in blood pressure may cause syncope, usually just after sauna bathing ()…

This study included 15 CHF patients with New York Heart Association (NYHA) class III, all in stable condition. Sauna bathing was performed once per day for four weeks. No adverse effect was observed. Symptoms improved in 13 of 15 patients after four weeks.

Sauna bathing decreased systolic blood pressure without affecting heart rate, resulting in a significant decrease in the rate-pressure product. Left ventricular ejection fraction, by echocardiography, was significantly increased from 30±11% to 34±11%. Sauna bathing significantly improved exercise tolerance manifested by prolonged 6 min walking distance, increased peak respiratory oxygen uptake and enhanced anaerobic threshold. It also significantly reduced plasma adrenaline and noradrenaline levels, and reduced the number of hospital admissions for CHF…”


Leave a Comment:

Jake says a couple of months ago

Great post – I have a similar diagnosis for my aortic root & ascending aorta, about 1 year ago and am told to wait 1 more year for a follow-up.

In the meantime I have been researched and started implementing similar strategies:
– Supplements; CoQ10, magnesium, iron etc
– Moderate exercise
– Sauna & cold exposure

Have you come across anything else that may be useful or interesting?

    David Emerson says a couple of months ago

    Hi Jake-

    Thanks for reading out. I write about everything I do for my heart health. I am going to try to keep my AO measurement under current 5.1 cm. Are you a cancer survivor (cardiotoxic chemo)? Are you a marfan’s patient?

    David Emerson

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