The Cardiometabolic Health Benefits of Sauna Exposure in Individuals with High-Stress Occupations: A Mechanistic Review
Sauna bathing may be a beneficial intervention for individuals in high-stress occupations (HSO) like firefighters, police, and military personnel. These jobs increase the risk of cardiometabolic diseases (CMD) due to stress factors like sleep deprivation and poor nutrition. Saunas, through heat exposure, potentially counteract these risks by improving CMD markers, making them a practical disease prevention strategy.
- Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of death in the US.
- HSO workers face higher CMD risks due to stressors like heat, smoke, poor diets, and irregular sleep.
- Stress in these jobs can lead to increased heart-related issues and overall health degradation.
Sauna Bathing as an Intervention:
- Two types of saunas: wet and dry, with most research focusing on dry saunas.
- Sauna use shows benefits in respiratory and cardiovascular health and may increase lifespan.
- Regular sauna use is linked to reduced cardiovascular mortality.
Stress and HSO:
- HSO workers experience chronic stress, which can be harmful over time.
- Chronic stress is linked to CMD and other health issues.
- Sauna bathing is a practical intervention for these workers due to time constraints and lack of adherence to other interventions.
Acute Heat Exposure Effects:
- Sauna use as an acute stressor leads to positive physiological changes.
- It can mimic moderate-to-vigorous exercise benefits.
- Heat exposure increases heat shock proteins and interleukin-6, aiding in cellular protection and anti-inflammatory responses.
Chronic Heat Exposure Benefits:
- Regular sauna use enhances heat stress tolerance, reduces inflammatory markers, improves insulin sensitivity, and boosts physical performance.
- These benefits are attributed to hormesis, a process where repeated low-level stress exposure strengthens cellular defenses.
Conclusions: Sauna bathing can be a valuable and practical intervention for people in high-stress occupations, offering significant cardiometabolic health benefits. This approach could lead to better overall health and reduced risks of CMD-related issues in these populations.