A recently published Finnish study entitled: Sauna bathing is inversely associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in middle-aged Finnish men
The study reports that frequent sauna use may reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by up to two-thirds.
Men who used a sauna 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 findings are based on data compiled over 20 years from more than 2,300 middle-aged men living in the eastern part of Finland.
The study participants were divided into three groups: those who used the sauna once a week, those who went sauna bathing two to three times a week, and those who used the sauna four to seven times a week.
Analysis shows that the more often the participants went sauna bathing, the lower their risk of dementia. Among those who used the sauna 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.
A Cardiologist’s thoughts
“Cardiovascular health can certainly affect the brain in a number of ways,” he says. “We know that improved blood flow to the brain leads to better overall mental function in areas such as planning, organizing, and attention.”
Heat, in any form, is known to dilate, or widen, the arteries of the body, says Dr. Reddy. Because this dilation can stress your heart, he adds, people need to talk with their physician before starting any sort of regular sauna usage.
In addition to the purely biological causes and effects, says Dr. Reddy, sauna bathing may also help present and future mental health because of the relaxation and sense of well-being that it may provide.
“Using a sauna tends to be a very stress relieving experience with the heat helping to relax you,” he says. “And there is a lot of evidence that chronic stress contributes to the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”
As discussed with Dan Baruch on Sauna Talk, there is a two pronged benefit to frequent sauna use:
- Physical and rejuvenating positive effects
- Mental and emotional positive effects
Dr. Reddy references this above. Dan calls these benefits intertwined or a chicken and egg. A cumulative effect.
In the spirit of not needing to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, yes, we all feel the physical benefits with our saunas. Yet frequent sauna sessions help us relax and help us chill out. The cool down is as awesome as the heat up.
Next time you feel the endorphin rush and have a laugh with a friend or family member between sauna rounds, keep in mind that you are tapping into the two pronged benefit to sauna: physical AND mental. This, in my opinion, is how we keep dementia and Alzheimers at bay (and have fun at the same time).