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Regular sauna use could reduce dementia risk

Regular sauna use could reduce dementia risk
21st December 2016

Sauna bathing on a regular basis could be key to helping reduce the risk of dementia, according to a new study. Research carried out at the University of Eastern Finland found that men who used a sauna between four and seven times a week were around 66 per cent less likely to develop dementia.

This link has not previously been investigated, but it seems that regular sauna use during a week leads to better dementia risk reduction compared to those who only use a sauna once a week. 

The university's Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study (KIHD) looked at the effects that sauna bathing has on the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Looking at over 2,000 middle-aged men living in eastern Finland, it discovered that the more saunas individuals take, the better their chances are of avoiding developing all forms of dementia.

Participants were divided into three groups, based on how often they used a sauna bath. Groups were made up of those who used a sauna once a week, two to three times a week and four to seven times a week.

Published in the journal Age and Ageing, the study found that dementia risk was lowest among those who were in the third group. People in this group were 66 per cent less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease and had a 65 per cent lower risk of developing any other form of dementia when compared to the first group.

The study found that regular sauna bathing also led to a significant reduction in the risk of sudden cardiac death, along with death due to coronary artery disease and any other cardiac events. It also leads to lower overall mortality. 

Professor Jari Laukkanen, the leader of the study, suggests that using saunas regularly could offer protection to both the brain and the heart through mechanisms that are not yet understood. "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," he said. 

Dr Clare Walton, research manager at the Alzheimer's Society, said: “With dementia now the biggest killer across England and Wales, finding ways to reduce the risk of developing the condition is a top priority.

“Saunas are thought to improve circulation and reduce blood pressure, both of which could go some way to reducing your risk of getting dementia."

The study suggests that men could benefit from regular sauna baths, which are not a common pastime in the UK. However, the study did not look at the effect that similar sauna bathing habits have among women and so more research would be beneficial.