Use an Infrared Sauna to Lower High Cholesterol
Heart attacks. Strokes. These are the reasons we should all care about high LDL cholesterol. But, some are using infrared saunas to limit their risks
Infrared sauna use has proven beneficial in combatting high cholesterol and reducing the chances of cholesterol-related complications such as heart attacks and strokes. In this article, we will example how LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) affects each one of us differently, and how a primatologist studying baboons discovered the missing link between high cholesterol and stress.
We worry about high cholesterol because of the heart risks involved. The National Institutes of Health has reviewed and accepted five major studies supporting infrared sauna’s role in reducing coronary heart risks and incidents. But, the ways in which infrared saunas diminish our risk these risks (high cholesterol and cardiac events) are actually quite fascinating.
- Infrared saunas reduce stress — We think “stress” only affects us psychologically, and it’s just a byproduct of living in the modern world, right? But, stress negatively impacts virtually every system of the body, and especially the nervous, cardiovascular, and immune systems. Saunas, and infrared saunas especially, have been shown to greatly reduce stress — they’re virtually synonymous with deep relaxation. Yet, most of us think taking a few hours to “Netflix and chill” is sufficient to achieving relaxation, but once those credits roll, the stressors that confounded our day come back to haunt us. Infrared saunas, on the other hand, bring long-lasting stress relief by helping our brains release endorphins and norepinephrine, a good kind of stress hormone that helps us be more focused and attentive, allowing us more discernment between real and imagined stressors.
- Improved circulation — This is a big one. Improving blood circulation is one of the best ways to prevent plaque formation and atherosclerosis (the hardening of the arteries). Likely, when your doctor diagnosed your high cholesterol, they also recommended daily exercise. Time spent in an infrared sauna has many of the same effects as one would experience taking part in moderate exercise; the heart rate increases, blood vessels dilate to deliver nutrients to muscles and organs, and there’s even a bit of sweat thrown in for good measure. Far-infrared heat therapy has been shown to improve micro-circulation, which helps to remove cholesterol deposits over time.
High cholesterol, especially the “bad” LDL cholesterol that sticks to artery walls, can lead to a number of cardiovascular complications — and likely an early death. But, infrared saunas can help fight high cholesterol and diminish the likelihood of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
Baboons, Stress, High Cholesterol, and You
So, back to that baboon teaser from the beginning. Primatologist and Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky first confirmed the connection between stress and high cholesterol. So, what do baboons have to do with LDL cholesterol, and what does this all mean for you?
High cholesterol is sometimes referred to as a “socialized disease,” meaning two identical people (same diet, exercise frequency, physiology, etc.) can respond to cholesterol in completely different ways due to stress, which brings us to baboons. Primatologist Robert Sapolsky connected elevated cholesterol levels to social, psychological, and environmental stressors in Serengeti baboons. In the words of Sapolsky, “baboon societies are ironically a lot like westernized humans.” Sapolsky continues, “We’re ecologically privileged enough that we can invent social and psychological stress.” Invent is the keyword here; our bodies have no discernment between real threats and threats we make up in our heads. Stress is stress.
In his research, Sapolsky studied the ranks (social hierarchies), social affiliations, and personalities of Serengeti baboons and then anesthetized them to take blood samples. Sapolsky found that baboons with more daily stressors due to social rank, competition, and a number of other real or perceived factors had elevated levels of LDL cholesterol. Stress — it turns out — can be the difference between two identical people, each consuming a 3,000-calorie, cholesterol-laden diet each day. One may live a happy, healthy life, and be bicycling with his grandchildren well into his 70s, while the other may suffer a major cardiac event and be laid to rest in before turning 55. Why is this? It all comes down to how stress changes our bodies and leads to high cholesterol.
The Role of Stress in High Cholesterol
When we are stressed or anxious, our immune systems become less engaged. After all, our bodies are going to need that extra bit of energy to deal with a perceived, imminent threat, so stress hormones actually send signals the immune system to pause its activities and divert that energy to the muscles and nervous system. This becomes a huge problem for those with professions and/or life situations where stress and anxiety are present nearly every day.
Stress causes the arteries to constrict and blood pressure to rise. These two factors cause the cholesterol to “stick” to the arterial walls and create the perfect environment to develop high cholesterol.
Make an Infrared Sauna Part of Your High Cholesterol Strategy
In combatting high cholesterol, your goals should be to reduce stress, relax your arterial walls, lower your blood pressure, and enhance the health of your immune and cardiovascular systems. An infrared sauna can support all of these goals.
In one University of Cracow study, men with similar health indicators and body types used an infrared sauna twice a day for 15 minutes over the span of ten days. The participants were told to not change their diets. After the ten days, researchers compared the groups before and after cholesterol levels. The results were remarkable. Without changing their diets or adding exercise into their routines, the group’s cholesterol levels were lowered to a level considered statistically significant, especially when you factor in the short duration of the study.
As part of your high cholesterol treatment, you too can make infrared saunas a part of your treatment regimen. Good Health Saunas offers infrared sauna models with a range of seating capacities, and at a number of attractive price points, placing them within reach of most families and retirees.