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Taking a sauna every day may be more than just refreshing and invigorating. It likely also reduces the risk for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Taking a sauna is good for your brain. Sauna benefits are not limited to the tingly feeling you get all over when you cool off after a long steam or infrared sauna. Sauna may even lower your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

What's the Scientific Evidence for Sauna for Preventing Alzheimer's?

Finland has been studying the causes of cardiovascular disease in its people in the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease (KIHD) Study for over 30 years. Finnish scientists have looked into hundreds of linkages between lifestyle and vascular health. Since sauna is enormously popular in Finland, the KIHD Study followed the links between frequency of taking a sauna and vascular dementia.

The KIHD tracked data for 2,315 men aged 42 to 60 who were deemed healthy at the beginning of the study in the mid- and late-1980's.The men were divided into three groups, those who took a sauna bath four to seven times a week, those who took a sauna two or three times a week, and those who took a sauna "just" once a week. (There are no data for men who never took a sauna.) After 30 years of study, the data show that sauna seems to prevent cognitive decline in aging:

  • Men who took a sauna four to seven times a week were 66 percent less likely to develop vascular dementia and 65 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than men who took a sauna just once a week.
  • Men who took a sauna two or three times a week were 22 percent less likely to develop vascular dementia and 20 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than men who took a sauna just once a week.

It wasn't just dementia and Alzheimer's disease that were found to be less common in men who took more saunas. The risk of atherosclerosis, heart attack, and peripheral artery disease were also 40 to 50 percent lower in men who visited their sauna rooms four to seven times a week.

Taking a sauna on a regular basis was as useful for cardiovascular health as taking a statin medication or keeping blood pressure under good control.

In Finland, a sauna is more likely to be a steam sauna than an infrared sauna, and the "average" temperature of a sauna room is 79 degrees Celsius (174 degrees Fahrenheit).

Is Lower Risk of Dementia and Cardiovascular Disease Really Due to Sauna Benefits?

The scientists analyzing the KIHD Study data noticed that the more men use the sauna, the more health benefits they enjoy. Even when they accounted for age at the beginning of the study, alcohol consumption, body mass index, systolic blood pressure, smoking status, Type 2 diabetes, previous heart attacks, resting heart rate, and serum low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, the more sauna, the more sauna benefits. However, that does not mean beyond any shadow of doubt that visiting sauna brings health benefits rather than healthy people are more inclined to visit the sauna. Maybe the relationship is really the other way around.

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