Sauna May Help Reduce Dementia Risk
Taking a sauna is an important part of Finnish culture, with an average of one sauna per household. A recent study found that using a sauna frequently may lower the risk of developing dementia for men.
Participants in the study included 2,315 Finnish men who took part in the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Participants were between the ages of 42 and 60 at the beginning of the study. The researchers divided the men into three groups: those who took a sauna once a week; those who took a sauna two to three times per week, and those who took a sauna four to seven times per week.
The study began in 1984 and had an average 20 years of follow-up. During that time, there were 204 diagnoses of dementia and 123 diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease. After adjusting for age, alcohol consumption, body mass index, systolic blood pressure, smoking status, type-2 diabetes, previous myocardial infarction, resting heart rate, and LDL cholesterol levels, the researchers found that the men who took sauna four to seven times per week were 66% less likely to be diagnosed with dementia and 65% less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s than those who took sauna once a week.
Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on December 7, 2016, in Age and Ageing.
Scant research has been conducted on the health benefits of saunas, but data from this same study suggests that taking sauna may also reduce the risk of death due to coronary artery disease and other cardiac events. The researchers hypothesize that this is due to increased heart rate and widened blood vessels as a result of the high heat and humidity of the sauna.