Does regular sauna use reduce the risk of dementia? For a group of 2300 Finnish men, researchers say, the answer was yes – as long as they hit the sauna at least 4 times a week. Here’s what this recent study means for you if you’re looking for ways to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
The Finnish tradition of sauna baths – relaxing in a small room with dry heat for a few minutes a day – dates back centuries. Sauna fans around the world claim the practice has health benefits, although it’s not for everyone. Harvard Men’s Health Watch says that people with certain heart conditions or hard-to-control high blood pressure should skip the sauna. For other people, this new study shows there may be a real upside to sauna time.
More sauna time, lower dementia risk
The study followed the men, whose ages ranged from 42 to 60 when the study started, for twenty years. The effect of sauna use on dementia had never been studied before, and researchers were interested in “whether frequency of sauna bathing is associated with risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”
The results were striking. “Moderate to high frequency of sauna bathing was associated with lowered risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease” among the men studied. Men who took sauna baths 4 to 7 days per week (for about 15 minutes per session) had a 66% lower risk of being diagnosed with dementia than men who took fewer trips to the sauna or didn’t go at all.
Why saunas may help reduce the risk of dementia
The scientists conducting the study previously found that frequent sauna users were less likely to die suddenly from heart problems. Because brain health and heart health are so closely linked, they suspect the protective effective of sauna baths on memory and cognition may be related to better heart health among regular sauna users. The exact reasons why saunas seem to protect heart health aren’t clear yet, according to researchers.
Other ways you can lower your dementia risk
The sauna study is good news – if you have access to a sauna (many gyms have them) and don’t have health issues that prevent you from using one. Talk to your doctor before you start a sauna regimen to make sure it’s a good option for you. If it’s not, or if there’s no sauna near you, remember that there are other ways you can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias:
- Counterbalance stress with good sleep habits, relaxation techniques, and social time.
- Give your memory a workout with regular brain games.
- Keep moving. Strength training and regular walks help keep your brain healthy, thanks to improved blood circulation and the release of brain-boosting hormones.
- Eat well and drink plenty of water. A Mediterranean-style diet high in fresh vegetables, fish, healthy fats, and fruit delivers the nutrients your brain needs to function well. Staying hydrated can prevent fatigue and disorientation.
Visit the dementia section of the SeniorAdvisor.com blog for more information on Alzheimer’s disease and other forms on dementia. You can learn more about choosing dementia care services on SeniorAdvisor.com.