TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- A woman who had no known health conditions suddenly died after using a sauna at a fitness center in Hsinchu City on Sunday (Dec. 22), reported Liberty Times.
On Sunday, after using a far infrared sauna at a fitness center in Hsinchu City, a 68-year-old woman surnamed Hsieh (謝) suddenly fainted and did not respond to attempts to revive her. She was then rushed to a nearby hospital, where she was declared dead.
Hsieh earlier that day made a routine visit to the gym, where she is a regular. After exercising, she sat the far infrared sauna, which is part of an aromatherapy SPA in the fitness center.
After exiting the sauna at around 9 p.m., Hsieh suddenly fainted, and a bystander was unable to revive her and immediately notified a lifeguard, who started CPR. An ambulance arrived, rushing her to a nearby hospital, but doctors were unable to resuscitate her.
According to a preliminary police investigation, Hsieh had no known history of medical conditions and was believed to be healthy. However, doctors remind the public that the recent temperature extremes between day and night, especially in the case of sudden cold and heat, can increase the proportion of vasoconstriction. If blood vessels become obstructed by vasoconstriction, the risk of sudden death might increase.
Police said that, because there was no external intervention or suspicious signs on the scene, the possibility of foul play has been ruled out.
Hsinchu Mackay Memorial Hospital cardiologist Lin Po-lin (林柏霖) pointed out that saunas can help increase blood circulation through relaxation and the contracting of blood vessels. However, saunas are not appropriate for everyone, such as those who suffer from cardiovascular disease and those with a family history of the disease.
Lin said that if plaque is already present in blood vessels, vasodilation followed by rapid contraction after a sauna session can cause the release of plaque into the bloodstream, potentially leading to an embolism or blockage in major blood vessels. "If the embolism occurs in the intracranial blood vessel, it could easily cause a stroke. If the embolism occurs in the coronary artery, it will lead to myocardial infarction," said Lin.
Lin advised those who smoke, suffer from heart disease or other cardiovascular diseases should consult with a physician before entering a sauna. In addition, elderly patients with chronic diseases such as the "three highs" (high blood sugar, high cholesterol and high blood pressure), kidney disease, previous strokes, anemia, and even pregnant woman, should avoid sitting in saunas.
Staying in the sauna for too long can lead to dehydration and hypotension due to excessive sweating, especially among the elderly and children, said Lin. In addition, if heat in the body is not dispersed quickly enough, it can cause heat stroke or serious heat exhaustion, according to Lin.
Lin said the recent changes in temperature in the morning and evening will increase the proportion of vasoconstriction and strain the heart. If blood vessels become constricted, it may increase the risk of sudden death.
Lin reminded people who enter situations with large temperature differences, such as going from indoors to outdoors or from the swimming pool to the sauna, pay attention to keeping warm and staying hydrated. Lin suggested those who have just finished swimming first take a warm shower or do some moderate exercise to warm the body up a bit, before entering the sauna, so as to avoid overly straining the heart.