A sauna bath may do more than simply help you relax. A recent study has found men who take a sauna bath four to seven times weekly may reduce their risk of dementia by a whopping 66 percent.
The 20-year study, conducted by the University of Eastern Finland, involved more than 2,000 men and revealed that the more frequently saunas were taken, the lower the risk of dementia.
These results follow on the heels of previous results showing the frequent sauna bathing also significantly reduces the risk of sudden cardiac death, the risk of death due to coronary heart disease as well as overall mortality.
According to the lead researcher Jari Laukkanen, sauna bathing may protect both the heart and memory through similar mechanisms, though they aren’t yet known.
Dr. Kevin Campbell, cardiologist and on-air medical expert for CBS in North Carolina, says that although the actual mechanism may be unclear, we do know that vascular function in the brain is important to avoiding dementia.
“The current study also alludes to a decrease in cardiac events and this may also be due to the effects of saunas on heart artery function,” he says. “So sauna bathing may indeed improve the function of blood vessels walls thus reducing the risk of dementia and heart disease.”
Sauna aficionados may also enjoy other health benefits, says Brooke Salsadua, marketing manager of Sunlighten Infrared Saunas, the nation’s leading retailer of home saunas.
“We’ve been seeing a 20 percent annual increase in residential sales of our units as more people want to reap the benefits,” she tells Newsmax Health.
Among the benefits of sauna bathing, cited by recent research:
Detoxification. “Sweating is the body’s safe and natural way to heal and stay healthy,” says Dr. Rachel West, an integrative family physician in Los Angeles. “The infrared sauna detoxification happens by heating the body directly, causing a rise in core temperature. This results in a deep, detoxifying sweat at the cellular level where toxins reside.” West notes that detoxification has been shown to help people with colitis, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and auto-immune diseases.
Weight loss. Studies have shown that an infrared sauna session can lead to the burning of upwards of 600 calories. As the body works to cool itself, there is a substantial increase in heart rate, cardiac output and metabolic rate, causing the body to burn more calories.
Pain relief. The gentle heat can relieve minor aches and pains by penetrating tissue, joints, and muscles. Some research indicates it may also ease headaches and migraines.
Lower blood pressure. A 2005 clinical study by the University of Missouri-Kansas City demonstrated that a 30-minute program of sauna bathing three times weekly reduced blood pressure. The study concluded that sauna therapy dilated blood vessels and reduced the volume of their inner lining thus increasing circulation to promote health blood pressure.
Anti-aging. The infrared wavelengths of the sauna are the most effective wavelengths for healing the epidermis and dermis layers of the skin. The infrared treatments stimulate collagen production to reduce wrinkles and improve over all skin tone. A study published in The Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy showed significant improvements in skin appearance after just 12 weeks of sauna skin therapy.
Relaxation. Infrared saunas produce a more gentle and soothing therapeutic heat than the old fashioned, traditional saunas that rely on extreme temperatures. Experts say that you feel relaxed and yet refreshed after every session.
But Campbell cautions that sauna therapy may not be suitable for everyone.
“While sauna bathing has been proven to be safe for most people even with coronary heart disease, those with congestive heart failure and unstable angina should speak with their doctor before participating,” Campbell tells Newsmax Health.
“Also, avoid alcohol consumption during a sauna session to reduce the risk of hypotension, arrhythmia, and sudden death.”
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