I have always considered sauna sessions to be a good way to cleanse the body and keep the skin glowing. But now it seems that visiting the sauna regularly has other more important benefits. It could reduce the risk of dementia, a new study has found. Scientists in Finland followed the lifestyles of more than 2,000 middle-aged men for twenty years to find out what factors influenced the development of cognitive problems in later life.
The study in Age and Ageing found that those who used the sauna between four and seven times a week were 66% less likely to be diagnosed with dementia compared to those taking a sauna once a week or less. It’s the first time a link between sauna use and dementia has been discovered, although previous studies showed regular use appears to improve heart health.
Professor Jari Laukkanen, the study leader at the University of Eastern Finland, said that sauna bathing may protect both the heart and memory in similar ways: ‘It is known that cardiovascular health affects the brain as well,’ he said. ‘The sense of wellbeing and relaxation experienced during sauna bathing may also play a role.’
Dementia charities said saunas might work by reducing blood pressure and improving circulation.
Doctor Clare Walton, research manager at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘With dementia now the biggest killer across England and Wales, finding ways to reduce the development of the condition is a top priority. Saunas are thought to improve circulation and reduce blood pressure, both of which could go some way in reducing your risk in getting dementia.’
Doctor Rosa Sancho, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK added: ‘Although sauna bathing isn’t a common hobby for men in the UK, this study suggests men who use saunas several times a week may also have a lower dementia risk.
‘These kinds of studies can’t unpick cause and effect but they are important for highlighting trends in how lifestyle factors may influence our risk of dementia.’
Well, having a sauna is rather pleasant in itself, but since it might also arrest the possibility of developing dementia then it is worth the effort. Like they say, nothing ventured nothing gained.