What is life extension really about? Implicit in any longevity program is not merely extending the quantity of chronological life, but also improving the quality of life. For many, this means creating a body that is free of disease, full of vitality, and an emotional stance that is both stable and joyful. 

The pursuit of longevity can be broken down into two primary branches. First, creating a healthy physiological landscape that prevents high mortality rates due to disease and illness. Second, altering and transforming how genes are expressed through proteins in a coherent and high functioning cellular landscape.

Longevity is a complex topic. There are many factors that correlate indirectly and directly to the quantity and quality of life. From geographical location, nutrition, and genetics, there are many aspects to consider. 

There will always be considerations that fall out of the realm of immediate control, but with respect to the participatory actions an individual can take toward his or her longevity, regular sauna bathing emerges as a heavy hitter in the game of longevity.

For the sake of precision and clarity, this article has been divided into two primary compartments.

  • Factor #1: The reduction of the risk of mortality from chronic disease and an examination into how and why regular sauna bathing may positively impact degenerative illness.
  • Factor # 2: The transformation of proteins, cellular, and intracellular expression through sauna bathing to alter the physiological makeup of each individual to promote longevity.

What Is Longevity And How Is It Defined?

In very simplistic terms, longevity refers to life expectancy. Increasing longevity, or the probability of living longer, involves two primary components: A) Reducing the risk of mortality and B) Altering the biological expression of age at a cellular level.

In tandem, both factors contribute to expected longevity for the human species. While there are many correlative elements that contribute to life expectancy; from genetics, to nutrition, geographical location, access to modern medicine, and clean water. Each of these influences play major roles in determining an individual or community’s life expectancy.  Another surprising factor that is deeply compelling for longevity is sauna bathing.

With over forty clinical studies on health and sauna bathing, research demonstrates impressive evidence into the field of sauna bathing and human biology that has accelerated over the past twenty years. This collection of data demonstrates that regular sauna bathing may powerfully and positively impact health in general, and more specifically longevity.

Factor # 1 Reducing Overall Mortality Risk With Sauna Bathing

  • Improve Insulin Sensitivity
  • Reduce Chronic Heart Failure & Hypertension
  • Improve Cardiovascular Function
  • Augment Circulation And Oxygenation Of The Body
  • Create Healthy Intracellular Communities Rich In Heat Shock Proteins

Consider two primary factors in determining life extension. The first is the ability to reduce the risk of mortality.  This concept, however, abides beyond the parameter of ‘life events’. If we can define ‘life events’ as for example, motor vehicle accidents, natural disasters, crime, and other contributing causes of death that are not overtly health related; meaning those occurence outside of immediate control.

There is little action anyone can take outside of safety precautions and measures, so perhaps there ought to be a third factor category labeled ‘Fate’. When it comes to maintaining a healthy body free of disease, sauna bathing certainly is a heavy hitter in any life extension program.

Sauna Bathing And Heart Health

“The cardiovascular effects of saunas have been well documented in the past. It lowers blood pressure, and there is every reason to believe that its effects are good for blood vessels.” (1)

This is written by Dr. Thomas Lee, a cardiologist from Harvard Medical. From heart disease to diabetes, and a broad array of autoimmune diseases, many chronic illnesses respond positively to regular sauna bathing. Roughly 670,000 Americans die every year of heart-related diseases. As a general demographic there is great room for improvement when it comes to heart health.

While, it is absolutely true that diet and other contributing lifestyle habits profoundly impact heart health; it is also true, that regular sauna bathing demonstrates positive results for individuals living with chronic heart conditions. Moreover, it is relatively inexpensive, accessible, as well as enjoyable.

For anyone interested in longevity, establishing a healthy heart will certainly be top of the list. From Harvard Medical Journal on Heart Disease Fatality reporting on a study involving individuals living with cardiovascular disease, the authors write: 

“Frequent visits to a sauna were also associated with lower death rates from cardiovascular disease and stroke” (1)

Autoimmune Disorders And Sauna Bathing: Remission And Sauna Bathing

According to the National Institute Of Health over 23.6 million Americans live with autoimmune disorders. While many of the over 80 varieties of autoimmune disorders may not always be directly lethal, they can be debilitating and weaken immune defenses that ultimately increase mortality rates. (2)

Sauna bathing capitalizes on the thermoregulatory trait of humans to continually find a balance of internal temperature. By virtue of this innate trait, a variety of the body’s systems are engaged in order to do this, including the triad of the autonomic nervous system; the hypothalamus (the emotional center of the brain), pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands. (3)

Many autoimmune disorders, although they exist without a concrete causative factor, can be traced back to overextension of sympathetic dominance, or more colloquially put, living in states of stress for too long depletes the health of the body. A depleted physical form inevitably begins to demonstrate illness and disease. Sauna bathing nurtures the autonomic nervous system by ushering states of being back into parasympathetic dominance where cellular regeneration occurs as well as healing of the tissues of the body. (3)

Type II Diabetes And Sauna Bathing: Secretion Of Heat Shock Proteins Positively Affects Insulin Sensitivity

According to Dr. Philip L. Hooper of Colorado University Medical, in his published journal by the National Institute of Health, there is a strong correlation between full body thermal therapy, the production of Heat Shock Proteins (HSPs), and insulin sensitivity. He writes the following expanding on the relationship between this cascade of  biochemical change:

“t2DM (Type II Diabetes) is an age-related disease that reduces longevity and in many ways accelerates many of the features associated with aging. HSPs are thought to play a fundamental role in longevity and aging.” (4)

Research suggests that insulin sensitivity is low in tissues where there are less HSPs, this has a remarkable impact on both types of diabetes. This information suggests that as the number of HSPs increase in different tissues of the body, so too does insulin sensitivity. Increased insulin sensitivity directly impacts the expression of both types of diabetes. While it is true that all thermal therapy induces increased HSPs, meaning either plunging temperatures, or elevated temperatures, the former is certainly a more comfortable option! 

For a variety of reasons, sauna therapy in its many forms is more pleasurable, accessible, and possibly a safer means by which to increase the production of heat shock proteins than extreme cold therapies. The development of Type II diabetes drastically impacts longevity in a significant portion of global society.

Brain Degenerative Diseases And Sauna Bathing:

A senior couple walking and strengthening their hearts

According to a finnish study that followed twenty men between the ages of 42 years and 60 years over a decade, researchers found that regular sauna bathing (at least three times per week) had a strong correlation in the reduction of the expression of brain degenerative diseases. The authors of the publicized journal entitle their work:

“Sauna bathing is inversely associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in middle-aged Finnish men” (5)

There were an estimated 46 million individuals in 2015 diagnosed world wide with some form of dementia. Deterioration of brain function significantly reduces life expectancy, but moreover greatly reduces the quality of life. It is true that there are many factors that contribute to progressive brain degenerative diseases, it is remarkable the positive impact that regular sauna bathing has on preventing the development of dementia. (6)

In addition, not only is sauna bathing effective, it is also enjoyable and relies on the natural functions of biology. Certainly, with the wellspring of available health benefits associated with sauna bathing its impact on Alzheimers and other brain degenerative diseases is astounding.

Factor # 2 Biological Age Versus Chronological Age:  Genes, Proteins, And Cellular Expression

  • Heat Shock Proteins: Intracellular Health
  • Telomeres: The Longevity Protein Cap
  • FOX03: A Gene Necessary For Longevity
  • Autonomic Nervous System Health

Longevity is not only a matter of reducing mortality rate: Fundamental to any life extension program is the transformation of cellular composition, genetic expression and a balanced autonomic nervous system that fosters the health of all tissues within the body’s systems.

What Is A Telomere And How Does Its Length Affect Longevity? Ground Zero Of The Aging Process

Telomeres are the ‘caps’ that seal off the proteins at the end of each and every chromosome. Often likened to the plastic portion of a shoelace that keeps the lace from fraying at the end. Telomeres have three primary functions:

  • They help to organize each of the 46 chromosomes in the nucleus of the cell
  • They protect the ends of the chromosomes by forming a ‘cap’ this ensures proper fusion 
  • They allow cells to replicate properly during cell division (8)

The demonstration of increased biological age can be brought back to ground zero. Are telomeres maintaining length? 

Every time DNA is replicated the chromosome strands are shortened. This is fine because the end caps, the telomeres, take the hit of being shortened. Once telomere length is shortened excessively, DNA itself, without the protective barrier,  also begins to be affected and demonstrable aging occurs. (8)

Neosauna Tip:

Longevity could be summed up in one sentence: Maintain telomere length; Maintain Youth!

So if every time cellular replication occurs and telomere length shortens, how do we keep telomeres healthy and long? Here is where regular sauna bathing comes in. Yes, it is possible to ensure telomere health through sweating it out in a warm cabin like structure! This is great news.

The action of telomerase allows cells to keep reloading without aging. (8) How can an individual encourage telomerase? What specific actions can be taken to ensure telomeres maintain their length? Creating a healthy atmosphere of the intracellular community is crucial. 

A study performed by Brigham Young University revealed that individuals who were able to sweat profusely at least three times a week demonstrated significantly longer telomere length. (9)

The reason why profuse regular perspiration is so critical is because Heat Shock Proteins (HSPs) are produced in higher quantities. Singularly HSPs play a vital role in intracellular health. Often HSPs are considered protein chaperones; they escort, clean, and ensure a  healthy intracellular space void of excessive free radicals.

Through regular thermal, both hot and cold therapies, the body begins to produce  more HSPs.  This, in turn, aids in the maintenance of telomere length so that cellular replication can occur in a healthy way without destruction to DNA.

Heat Shock Proteins, Telomere Length, And FOX03: The Longevity Cocktail

The triad of protein chaperones, protein end caps, and the longevity gene makes it possible to actively reduce the biological expression of age. Unfortunately, continued environmental stress may erode the efficacy of this triad.

When research is performed on the gene FOX03, by changing the external environment to include more or less toxins, it directly affects the lifespan of the subject. (10

Authors of: ‘FOX03: A Major Gene For Human Longevity’ published by the National Institute of Health and authored by Dr. Brian J. Morris, writes:

“…Because of its actions and strategic position in relation to intracellular pathways, FOX03 has long been considered to play a pivotal role in the molecular basis of longevity”

As a healthy intracellular community is crucial for the gene FOX03, it becomes clear why augmented production of HSPs, the protein chaperone is so critical. Further, the detoxification of potentially harmful pathogens that occurs while engaged in regular sauna bathing is paramount to maintaining the integrity of FOX03. The production of HSPs that occurs while engaged in sauna therapy is necessary to maintain a healthy intracellular community, and therefore the integrity of the longevity gene FOX03.

The Autonomic Nervous System And Longevity

The nervous system reaping the positive benefits of infrared therapy

“Oxidative stress: Accounts for the loss of between 50-100 base pairs per cell division. The amount of oxidative stress in the body is thought to be affected by lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking, and stress.” (8)

Imperative to longevity is a balanced autonomic nervous system, this ensures that individuals do remain in states of stress response for prolonged periods of time. Stress, as the leading cause of chronic illness is not news, but how does this work?

Understand that all involuntary processes within the body including heart rate, digestion, cellular regeneration, circulation, the list goes, all take directive from the autonomic nervous system, thus the name autonomic. Within this system of the body two states of being can occur, but are mutually exclusive. This means that when the adaptive portion of the autonomic nervous system swings into sympathetic dominance, or survival states, circulation, hormone secretion, mood, heart rate, and many other involuntary actions are all affected. (7)

Survival depends upon the individual’s ability to release cortisol and adrenaline from the adrenal glands to perform extreme acts of fight or flight, however if individuals remain in states of stress response for too long, eventually the body’s health is eroded. 

Regeneration, healthy digestion, and cellular nourishment only occur when the autonomic nervous system is in parasympathetic dominance. This means that healthy cell replication can only occur in states of rest and relaxation. Sauna bathing is an incredible tool that aids to coax the autonomic nervous system back into states of regeneration where health and ultimately longevity can be experienced.

Anyone interested in promoting their personal health must find both easy and accessible means of drawing the autonomic nervous system out of states of stress response back into relaxation. 

Adrenaline overload is a primary correlative factor in almost all autoimmune disorders, when the body remains in stress response for prolonged periods of time, eventually the adrenal glands break down. Consider the health of the endocrine system; pineal, pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, and reproductive glands. When this system is in balance a multitude of health benefits occur; likewise when the endocrine system is out of balance there is an erosion of health, vitality, and longevity within the physical form.

Individuals looking for longevity protocol would do well to add regular sauna bathing to a well balanced healthy diet, clean water, and plenty of rest!

Criteria To Acquire Results Successfully: The ‘How To’ Of Sauna Bathing For Longevity

With over 40 peer reviewed articles on sauna bathing and longevity, one thing that is clear; in order to benefit from the results of sauna bathing, the therapy must be engaged regularly. This means, a minimum of three times per week for fifteen minutes.

Yes, sauna bathing promises compelling results for human longevity, but you must be willing to commit to regular sauna protocol. 

It is no wonder that sauna bathing in its many forms has existed since before recorded history. Science has now enabled a means by which to measure these astounding truths; from reducing mortality rates by aiding in the prevention and remission of chronic illness, to enhancing protein health and genetic expression sauna bathing may hold the key to the fountain of youth, but you must be willing to turn to your heat therapy several times a week!  

Is sauna bathing the elixir of life? Perhaps. Certainly it has stood the test of time and scientific research. If you feel moved toward a longevity program for yourself, take some time to discover what form of sauna bathing suits your personality, and lifestyle!

Sources:

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/sauna-use-linked-longer-life-fewer-fatal-heart-problems-201502257755
  2. https://www.gene.com/stories/autoimmune-disease-101
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5941775/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4041942/
  5. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/311561077_Sauna_bathing_is_inversely_associated_with_dementia_and_Alzheimer’s_disease_in_middle-aged_Finnish_men
  6. https://www.alz.co.uk/research/statistics
  7. https://europepmc.org/article/med/8458992
  8. https://www.yourgenome.org/facts/what-is-a-telomere
  9. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170510115211.htm
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5403515/