If you are living with an implant heart device, or ‘pacemaker’, then most likely you have become accustomed to wondering if certain activities, machinery, or devices will conflict with the proper function of your pacemaker. While sauna bathing, including infrared sauna therapy, is known for its benefits to heart health and cardiovascular function, if you already have a pacemaker implant, you may be ambivalent about the safety of using an infrared sauna.
As with all medical conditions, if you are unsure, it is best to consult a healthcare professional before beginning sauna therapy. What we review in this article is general guidance, but please make sure to contact your device manufacturer and/or physician to obtain the specific safety measures regarding your unique device.
Different Types of Pacemakers
There are a few different types of heart implant devices that someone will likely be wondering about with their infrared sauna use which include:
- Single chamber – One lead attaches to the upper or lower heart chamber
- Dual-chamber – Uses two leads, one for the upper and one for the lower chamber
- Biventricular pacemakers – Used in cardiac resynchronization therapy
- Pacemakers with an ICD – Implantable defibrillator
Pacemaker Safety Levels
Typically, activities and devices that may affect the function of a pacemaker are broken down into four primary categories:
- Acceptable for use with an implant heart device
- Low risk for use with an implant heart device
- High risk use for an implant heart device
- Avoid all together with an implant heart device.
While most devices we use in our home and office fall into the first and second categories, there are some surprising devices that fall into the more concerning third and fourth categories. For example, any shop tools (drills, table saws, etc.) should be kept at least 12 feet away from your pacemaker, and body fat measuring scales can seriously interfere with the function of your implanted pacer. Induction cooktops should be used with caution, and those with a pacemaker know that they will be subject to special screening at the airport due to their inability to use the standard metal detecting equipment. It is not surprising to wonder whether or not your pacemaker is safe for use in an infrared sauna.
Is an infrared sauna safe for people with a pacemaker or ICD?
There are a handful of pharmaceutical companies which manufacture implantable pacemakers and ICD devices. One of the largest of these companies is Medtronic, a well-known manufacturer with global distribution. Medtronic’s online information database, as well as information provided directly to patients, indicates infrared saunas are safe to use with all of their pacemaker devices.
It may come as a surprise to you, but Medtronic places infrared sauna therapy, as well as acupuncture (without electrical current) under the category of ‘no effect’ on the function of your heart device. (1)
According to a Medtronic specialist: “An infrared sauna, a mammogram and acupuncture without current will have no effect on the function of your heart device.” (1)
It is always best to confirm with your primary care physician or cardiologist before embarking on a sauna therapy protocol. Heart issues and pacemakers can be very sensitive to outside stimuli, for example an airport security checkpoint. While this is true, the manufacturers of some of the top pacemakers available today do give the direct go ahead to use an infrared sauna with a pacemaker.
Beyond being merely acceptable to use a pacemaker, even those with an ICD, the data collected by the National Institute of Health suggests that heart health is dramatically improved with regular sauna use, even for those with chronic heart failure. (2)
Sauna Use and Overall Heart Health
Very often the average person will associate a variety of contraindications for sauna use for those living with moderate to severe heart issues. The reality is that regular (3-5 times per week) sauna sessions dramatically improve heart function, lower blood pressure, and improve circulation through the upper and lower chambers of the heart. (2)
According to the study: “Beneficial Effects of Sauna Bathing For Heart Failure Patients” issued by NIH:
It seems that the data collected by heart health specialists demonstrates that regular sauna bathing improves overall heart health, not only for patients with acute heart failure, but also for the rest of the population.
“Repeated sauna therapy (60°C for 15 min) improved hemodynamic parameters, clinical symptoms, cardiac function and vascular endothelial function in patients with CHF…Sauna treatment is considered safe for CHF patients with NYHA classes I, II and III. It seems that sauna treatment may help improve clinical symptoms and hemodynamic parameters secondary to an improvement in the endothelial function of patients with CHF whose endothelial function is impaired.”
It is always recommended to consult a medical professional before beginning a robust sauna protocol.
Regular Sauna Bathing Improves Overall Heart Health and Is Safe To Use In An Infrared Sauna
The combination of high heat and the positive effect of infrared light on blood circulation suggests that its regular use can help in the prevention of heart disease. This can also be incorporated into the treatment protocol of those who suffer from acute heart conditions, even those living with an implanted pacemaker.
The unique interplay between infrared light and cellular function, particularly mitochondrial function, helps to enrich the oxygen level in the bloodstream as well as improve circulation through the upper and lower chambers of the heart. (3)
Even if you are living with any of the three primary pacemakers mentioned above, Medtronic, the manufacturer of these devices, says that infrared sauna bathing is a safe activity for individuals with these heart implants.
Even as expert opinion is weighed in, it is so very important to double, and even triple check with the manufacturer of your pacemaker, as well as with your cardiologist before beginning a sauna therapy regimen.