Congestive Heart Failure: What Happens To Your Body

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is when a heart has difficulty pumping blood to other parts of the body, according to an article written for Medical News Today. Ventricles inside your heart pump blood through the body, but when the walls of the ventricle become too weak the blood isn’t pushed out and instead stays in the ventricle. CHF is a disease that can get progressively worse over time, especially if undiagnosed or untreated. Usually patients with CHF have other conditions caused by it including: congenital heart disease, high blood pressure, faulty heart valves or heart attack. Common symptoms of CHF include, but may not be limited to; swelling in the legs and feet caused by a buildup of excess fluid, bloating, fatigue, nausea, chest pain and shortness of breath. It is estimated that half of people who develop heart failure live beyond five years after their initial diagnosis, according to a 2016 study published by the American Heart Association. While there is no cure for CHF, experts say early detection and treatment are two key ways to helping improve someone’s life expectancy.

If you are diagnosed with CHF, doctors will recommend making changes to your diet and exercise routine, watching your weight and restricting the amount of fluids you drink, as consuming too much liquid may diminish the effects of diuretic medicines. CHF patients usually need to restrict their fluid intake because they tend to retain fluid in the body. Furthermore, Experts recommend a healthy diet low in sodium and to end alcohol consumption. Regular exercise is encouraged, especially activities that elevate the heart and breathing rates such as jogging, bicycling or swimming. In addition to these lifestyle changes, regular sauna sits may also be beneficial for CHF patents.

Make Your Heart Happy with Infrared Heat

Infrared saunas may be more beneficial for CHF patents to use compared to another sauna types such as a steam room or wood burning. Infrared saunas are one of the few mediums that provide infrared heat in a controlled environment. Infrared heat is an invisible electromagnetic wave with a wavelength longer than that of visible light that helps improve blood flow. Typically in a traditional sauna, the surrounding air is heated up to about 185 degrees, which then heats your body up. However, in infrared saunas the temperature only reaches about 140 degrees. Infrared rays penetrate your body more deeply, which cause your body to start sweating at a lower temperature than a traditional sauna. According to a 2009 review of evidence done by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, researchers found that infrared saunas produce a lighter demand on the cardiovascular system, so they in turn might be beneficial to people who lead a more sedentary life due to medical issues. Furthermore the review, which covered nine studies, found limited evidence for improvement to chronic pain and “limited moderate evidence” for improvements in blood pressure and symptoms of congestive heart failure.

Sauna Sits for CHF Patients

The effects of Far-Infrared Sauna sits for CHF patients have been studied by experts in Japan for years. Researchers looked studied 20 patients diagnosed with CHF to take 10 infrared sauna sits over a 14-day period. Each sit was followed by 30 minutes of bed rest, covered with a blanket. Another 10 CHF patients were treated only with bed rest. At the end of the study, the 10 patients in the control group (bed rest only) showed no changes, while the sauna group reported improvement in dilation of brachial artery after just 10 saunas sits. Furthermore, 17 out of 20 in the sauna treatment group showed an improvement with clinical CHF symptoms. In another study, researchers looked at the effects of sauna therapy for people with class II and class III CHF who were experience at least 200 premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) in one day. The control group of 10 patients reclined in a bed for 45 minutes each day for two weeks while the sauna test group of 20 patients sat in a far-infrared sauna 15 mins each day, for 10 days in a two-week period. Their sauna sits were followed by 30 minutes of bed rest. At the end of the two week period, the treatment group experienced a lower amount of PVCs, compared to the control group.

How to Start Using Saunas

Saunas may be a relaxing option for CHF patients looking to incorporate heart exercise into their routine, while keeping their physical input lower due to medical reasons. People who take regular saunas are advised to drink lots of water before and after use to stay properly hydrated. If you are new to sauna sits, it is recommended that first-time users spend no more between five and 10 minutes. As you get more and more used to the heat, you can slowly increase the time you spend in a sauna to up to about 20 minutes. It is important to remember these safety tips when using a Sauna: cool down slowly after use, stay hydrated by drinking two to four glasses of water after each sauna sit and avoid alcohol before and after sauna sits. Anyone with heart disease should consult a doctor prior to use.

Resources: Jon Johnson, Reviewed by Gerhard Whitworth, RN, “How Long Can A Person Live With Congestive Heart Failure?,” Medical News Today, April 18, 2018; American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee, “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2016 Update,” American Heart Association, 2016; 133:e38-e360; U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health; Kihara T, Biro S, Imamura M, et al. Repeated sauna treatment improves vascular endothelial function in patients with chronic heart failure. J Am Coll Cardiol 2002;39:754-759; Kihara T, Biro S, Ikeda Y, et al. E#ects of repeated sauna treatment on ventricular arrhythmias in patients with chronic heart failure Circ J 2004;68:1146-1151.