Frequent sauna bathing may significantly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland. A sauna is a small room designed to induce sweating through the use of dry or wet heat.
After a 20-year follow-up, researchers found that men who went sauna bathing four to seven times a week were 66 percent less likely to be diagnosed with dementia compared to those who went to the sauna only once a week. The study is the first to investigate the link between sauna bathing and dementia risk.
The effects of sauna bathing on the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia were based on data from the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study (KIHD), involving more than 2,000 middle-aged men living in the eastern part of Finland (sauna bathing is an extremely popular practice in Northern Europe).
The study participants were divided into three groups based on their sauna-bathing habits: those who went sauna bathing once a week, those who went sauna bathing two to three times a week, and those who went sauna bathing four to seven times a week.
The findings show that the more frequently the participants went sauna bathing, the lower their risk of dementia. Among those who went sauna bathing four to seven times a week, the risk of any form of dementia was 66 percent lower and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease 65 percent lower than among those who went just once a week.
Currently, over five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and more than one in three seniors will die with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Previous results from the KIHD study have shown that frequent sauna bathing also significantly reduces the risk of sudden cardiac death, the risk of death due to coronary artery disease, and other cardiac events, as well as overall mortality.
According to Professor Jari Laukkanen, the study leader, sauna bathing may protect both the heart and memory to some extent via similar, still poorly known mechanisms.
“However, it is known that cardiovascular health affects the brain as well. The sense of well-being and relaxation experienced during sauna bathing may also play a role,” said Laukkanen.
Some of the other frequently claimed benefits of sauna bathing include muscle relaxation, stress reduction, weight loss, immune system strengthening, and blood flow improvement.
The findings were published recently in the Age and Ageing journal.
Source: University of Eastern Finland