The sense of well-being and relaxation experienced during sauna bathing can help reduce risk of dementia, new research suggests. In a 20-year follow-up study involving 2,000 middle-aged men, the researchers found that men taking a sauna four to seven times a week were 66 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with dementia than those taking a sauna once a week. The more frequently saunas were taken, the lower was the risk of dementia, showed the study published in the journal Age and Ageing. Frequent sauna bathing was earlier found to significantly reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death, the risk of death due to coronary artery disease and other cardiac events, as well as overall mortality. Sauna bathing may protect both the heart and memory to some extent via similar, still poorly known mechanisms, said lead researcher Jari Laukkanen, Professor at University of Eastern Finland. “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,” Laukkanen noted.
The effects of sauna bathing on the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia were studied in the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study (KIHD), involving more than 2,000 middle-aged men living in the eastern part of Finland. Based on their sauna-bathing habits, the study participants were divided into three groups — those taking a sauna once a week, those taking a sauna two to three times a week, and those taking a sauna four to seven times a week. Among those taking a sauna four to seven times a week, the risk of any form of dementia was 66 per cent lower and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease 65 per cent lower than among those taking a sauna just once a week, the study said.