Jari Laukkanen is a professor at the University of Eastern Finland. He and his co-authors have recently published a research paper in Age and Ageing journal on the link between sauna bathing and memory diseases. You can follow him on twitter @LaukkanenJari
Frequent sauna bathing can reduce the risk of dementia, according to a 20-year follow-up study. Men taking a sauna 4–7 times a week were 66% less likely to be diagnosed with dementia than those taking a sauna once a week. The association between sauna bathing and dementia risk has not been previously investigated.
The effects of sauna bathing on the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia were studied in the Kuopio Ischemic 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 2–3 times a week, and those taking a sauna 4–7 times a week.
In this male population, moderate to high frequency of sauna bathing was associated with lowered risks of Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Among those taking a sauna 4–7 times a week, the risk of any form of dementia was 66% lower and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease 65% lower than among those taking a sauna just once a week.
Previous results have shown that visiting sauna regularly 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. Sauna bathing may protect both the heart and memory to some extent via similar, still mainly unknown 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.