Background: Vascular endothelial dysfunction is involved in the pathophysiology of chronic heart failure (CHF). It has been reported that sauna therapy, which allows thermal vasodilation, improves vascular endothelial dysfunction in patients with CHF. The present study investigates the mechanisms through which sauna therapy improves endothelial dysfunction induced by CHF.
Methods and results: Normal control and male TO-2 cardiomyopathic hamsters were used. Thirty-week-old TO-2 hamsters were treated daily with an experimental far infrared-ray dry sauna system for 15 min at 39 degrees C followed by 20 min at 30 degrees C. This procedure raised the rectal temperatures by about 1 degrees C. Arterial endothelial nitric oxide (NO) synthase (eNOS) mRNA and protein expressions were examined, and serum concentrations of nitrate were measured. The expression of eNOS mRNA in the aortas of normal controls did not change, whereas those of the TO-2 hamsters decreased with age. Four weeks of sauna therapy significantly increased eNOS mRNA expression in the aortas of TO-2 hamsters compared with those that did not undergo sauna therapy. Sauna therapy also upregulated aortic eNOS protein expression. Serum nitrate concentrations of the TO-2 hamsters were increased by 4 weeks of sauna therapy compared with those that did not undergo sauna.
Conclusion: Repeated sauna therapy increases eNOS expression and NO production in cardiomyopathic hamsters with heart failure.