Partaking regularly in the relaxing practice of sauna bathing is associated with a decreased risk for dementia and Alzheimer's disease (AD) — at least in men, new research suggests.
Further results from the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease (KIHD) study, which included more than 2300 middle-aged men in Finland who were deemed healthy at baseline, showed that those whose sauna use averaged 4 to 7 times per week were 66% less likely to develop dementia at 20-year follow-up than men who used a sauna once a week. In addition, they had a 65% risk reduction for AD.
The report "provides promising results from the first prospective study that shows sauna bathing to be a potential protective lifestyle factor for common memory diseases," write the investigators, adding that the practice "may be a recommendable intervention" to prevent the condition in healthy adults.
However, they note that more studies are needed in different patient populations, including women.
Still, senior author Jari Antero Laukkanen, MD, PhD, professor at the University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, told Medscape Medical News that he was pleased with the results.
"This study was surprising because the findings were so strong," said Dr Laukkanen. "People have positive feelings about sauna bathing," which may help in part to explain the associations found, he added.
The results were published online December 7 in Age and Ageing.