Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland have concluded a 20-year study involving over 2000 men between the ages of 42-60. Their findings show that men who reported using a sauna 4-7 times per week were 66% less likely to be diagnosed with dementia and 65% less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
According to Dr. Clare Walton, research manager at the Alzheimer’s Society, finding ways to reduce the risk of developing dementia has become a top priority due to its increasing prevalence.
Because saunas are thought to improve circulation and reduce blood pressure, researchers believe that regular sauna visits could also reduce the risk of dementia.
Study leader, Jari Laukkaben believes that sauna bathing may protect the heart and memory in similar ways. Laukkaben added, “The sense of well-being and relaxation experienced during sauna bathing may also play a role.”
This is the first study to attempt to find a link between regular sauna use and reducing the risk of getting dementia.
This was the first study done that shows a link between regular sauna bathing and reducing the risk of dementia, although previous studies show that saunas also reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death, the risk of death from coronary artery disease, and other negative cardiac incidents.
The three groups involved in the study included men taking a sauna one time per week, those taking a sauna 2-3 times per week, and those taking a sauna 4-7 times per week.
Those in the 4-7 times per week group demonstrated the least susceptibility to dementia.
Dr. Walton adds, “this type of study alone cannot tell us whether starting a regular sauna habit is a worthwhile way to improve brain health. Currently the best evidence to reduce the risk of dementia is to exercise regularly, eat a healthy, balanced diet and avoid smoking.”
Dr. Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK concludes that although the study shows there is a link between men who sauna regularly and the occurrence of Dementia, this study does not look at other groups or how dementia risk relates to the rest of the population.
Dr. Sancho adds, “These kinds of studies can’t unpick cause and effect, but they are important for highlighting trends in how lifestyle factors may influence our risk of dementia for more detailed follow-up.”
Although the study linking the regular use of saunas and a reduction in the risk of being diagnosed with dementia is encouraging, there are more effective, more proven ways to limit dementia risks, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.
Get your cholesterol levels checked regularly. This is especially important for individuals over 40 and for those with a family history of dementia or cardiovascular problems. As already noted, a healthy diet is your best friend for reducing cholesterol levels and the risk of dementia.
Once you establish the foundation of a healthy lifestyle in place, feel free to add regular visits to the sauna.