Saunas have long been advocated as a great way to build up a good sweat to help cleanse the skin and flush the toxins out of a person's body, besides being good ways to relieve stress and help to soothe sore muscles. Regular saunas can have a general benefit to a person's health and well-being, but a new medical study suggests that they may also be beneficial to the heart for some people in society.

Scientists have determined that middle-aged men who have a regular sauna are markedly less likely to die from conditions relating to the heart, that those who do not.

Indeed, if such groups of people had a sauna up to once a day, they were found to benefit the most from the experience. The results suggested that by comparison with those taking a sauna once a week only, they were 50% less likely to risk dying from cardiovascular disease.

The latest study was based on a trial of 2,315 men aged 42 to 60 from eastern Finland, a country well-known to have a strong sauna tradition down through the years. By diligently following the progress of the test group over a lengthy time span of some 21 years, researchers were able to compare the death rates between those visiting the sauna once a week only, with the more frequent users.

Their findings suggested that men who had two to three sessions in a week were 22% less at risk of a sudden cardiac death, while the figure became 63% lower for those taking saunas four to seven times during the week.

The risk of developing coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease showed similar patterns. For all types of mortality, the corresponding figures were 24% and 40% less risk.

It was further identified that increasing the time spent in the sauna at any one sitting, increased the benefit in terms of reducing the risk of the various forms of heart related deaths.

The study was led by Dr Jari Laukkanen, based at the University of Eastern Finland at Kuopio, and an in-depth online report can be found in the journal Jama Internal Medicine.

Dr Laukkanen and his fellow scientists could not readily explain the reasoning behind their findings, but suggested that further studies be carried out "to establish the potential mechanism that links sauna bathing and cardiovascular health."

Saunas have a deep effect on the normal human body, causing the skin temperature to rise to around 104 degrees Fahrenheit within a matter of minutes. On average a person can lose up to a pint of sweat during a short stint in a sauna, with the pulse rate increasing by 30% or even more, such that the heart can almost double the amount of blood that it pumps around the body each minute. Existing heart patients, such as those with abnormal heart rhythms and unstable angina, are still advised to check with their doctors before taking a sauna though.