Can saunas help lower blood pressure?

What you should know about tinnitus

A MAN enters a sauna on the peak of Mount Lagazuoi in Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy (photo credit: STEFANO RELLANDINI/REUTERS)
A MAN enters a sauna on the peak of Mount Lagazuoi in Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy
I am a 24-year-old man with somewhat elevated blood pressure. I recently stayed with my wife in a nice hotel and used its sauna quite a lot over the week’s vacation. I had never gotten into a sauna before. I found that my blood pressure was down to normal after the vacation. Could it be that the sauna caused this beneficial change? A.S., Ashkelon
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich reports:
A new study on the therapeutic effects of saunas was just published in the Journal of Human Hypertension by researchers from the University of Eastern Finland, in a Scandinavian country where saunas are widely used.
Obviously, even a layman could suggest that just relaxing in a hotel with your wife in a hotel could have been responsible for lowering your blood pressure. However, this study showed that sauna bathing is associated with a variety of health benefits (though it is not recommended for pregnant women or people with chronic illness).
The team tested 100 people with elevated blood pressure who spent 30 minutes each in a sauna. They found that the experience reduced blood pressure and increased vascular compliance (elasticity), while also increasing the heart rate similarly to medium-intensity exercise.
Previously, the research group published findings from a population-based study indicating that regular sauna bathing is linked with a reduced risk of coronary diseases and sudden cardiac death, hypertension and dementia. They also said that frequent sauna bathing was linked with a reduced risk of respiratory diseases and lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a blood test marker for inflammation in the body.
Vascular compliance was measured from the carotid and femoral arteries before sauna, immediately after sauna, and after 30 minutes of recovery. Immediately after being in the sauna, the test subjects’ mean systolic blood pressure was reduced from 137 mmHg to 130 mmHg, and their diastolic blood pressure from 82 mmHg to 75 mmHg. Furthermore, their systolic blood pressure remained lower even after 30 minutes of sauna bathing.
The authors noted that regular physical exercise and a healthful lifestyle promote cardiac health and prevent disease, but not all of the risk and protective factors are yet known. The benefits of regular sauna bathing on cardiac health observed in the population- based study can, according to this experimental study, be explained by the fact that sauna bathing reduces blood pressure and increases vascular compliance.
But they noted that further research data from experimental settings relating to the physiological mechanisms of sauna bathing that promote cardiac health are still needed.
My dad suffered from tinnitus for years soon after his brother died suddenly. He tried everything to no avail. Finally, he tried lipoflavonoid, which is an over-the-counter supplement used to increase blood flow to the inner ear. He feels fine now. V.W., Ma’aleh Adumim
Dr. Menachem Oberbaum, director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, comments:
The use of dietary supplements to treat tinnitus is common, particularly with ginkgo biloba, magnesium, melatonin, vitamin B12 and zinc – but also with lipoflavonoid.
In an Internet survey performed by University of Iowa researchers, a website was created asking people with tinnitus to complete a questionnaire with a variety of questions. A total of 1,788 subjects from 53 countries responded to questionnaires. Of these, 413 (23.1%) reported taking supplements. According to the study, which was published in the American Journal of Audiology (a leading ENT journal), no effect on tinnitus was reported by 70.7% of them; 19.0% reported some improvement, while 10.3% said their condition worsened after the lipoflavonoid. Adverse effects were reported in 6% of them, including bleeding, diarrhea, headache, and others.
Lipoflavonoid might be helpful for sleep. The researchers concluded that dietary supplements, among them lipoflavonoid, should not be recommended to treat tinnitus but could have a positive outcome on tinnitus reactions in some people.
The same researcher group performed also a randomized controlled clinical trial on 40 patients, who received for six months either a magnesium preparation and a lipoflavonoid preparation, or a lipoflavonoid preparation only as the control. During the study, 12 participants dropped out of the study because of the side effects. No participants from the flavonoid group (total 16 patients) showed an improvement. Two participants reported a loudness decrement, and one reported an annoyance decrement.
The authors of the study conclude that they are not able to assert that flavonoids are effective in the treatment of tinnitus.
A careful conclusion of the research results on flavonoids achieved until now casts doubt on the efficiency of flavonoids in the treatment of tinnitus and draws attention to the possibility of developing side effects.
Dr. Geoffrey Pollack, director of the ear-nose-and-throat department at Netanya’s Laniado Medical Center, comments on a recent statement (in this column) by integrative medicine specialist Dr. Menachem Oberbaum that there is really no cure for tinnitus:
There is more to tinnitus than to suggest one should live with it. Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease. There are many different causes – some treatable. For example, middle-ear disease, severe wax impaction or tumors can cause tinnitus. In fact, many medicines can produce tinnitus as a side effect.
A visit to an ENT physician should be made by anyone experiencing this problem. If it is found that the tinnitus cannot be cured, there are treatment options available that can lessen the burden that the noise has on a person’s quality of life. These include the use of hearing aids, sound therapies, behavioral therapies, tinnitus retraining therapy (combining sound with behavioral treatment), drug therapies and various experimental therapies. I hope this is helpful to your readers.
Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 9100002, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or email it to [email protected], giving your initials, age and place of residence.