Can Durham Seniors Reduce Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease with the Sauna?

February 7, 2017

A recent Finnish study about dementia in the journal, Age and Aging, found remarkable protective results from regularly bathing in the sauna. The study found that men that visited the sauna 4-7 times a week were less likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s. The researchers compared three groups in the study: those that went over 4 times per week, those going 2-3 times per week and those who went less than once per week. The results were striking for those who frequented the sauna 4-7 times per week. They were found to be 66% less likely to develop dementia and 65% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to those going once or less weekly. Men who went 2-3 times per week were 22% less likely to develop dementia and 20% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those going less often. The researchers found that those going to the sauna less than once per week were three times as likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s than those who went every day.

Saunas are believed to improve circulatory function and arterial stiffening, lower blood pressure, and reduce inflammation. Most people enjoy the sauna for 5-20 minutes with cooling off periods and increased water intake. Another study found that weekly sauna users also were 63% less likely to suffer fatal cardiovascular events. However, those who may have just had a heart attack should stay out to the sauna for awhile or if you have unstable angina pectoris or a aortic stenosis. Alcohol use while in the sauna is not recommended. The original study was used to examine the correlation between saunas and cardiovascular health and they noticed the reduced effects of dementia on frequent sauna users. The scientists theorized that the positive cardiovascular health benefits of sauna bathing has a positive effect on cognitive health and may serve a neurologically protective function as well. The sauna does reduce the high systemic blood pressure and elevated pulse pressure which are also known risk factors for dementia. The scientists also said there is a social effect with sauna bathing that may have a protect against dementia. A rich social network can decrease the risk for dementia as well. The research was not conducted on women or those in warmer climates, so more research needs to be done to see if the results are the same.

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