Frequent sauna bathing reduces stroke risk

03 May 2018, 20:18

  DF Report

Photo Visit Finland by Harri Tarvainen.

Frequent sauna bathing is associated with a reduced risk of stroke, reports a new international study conducted by a team of scientists from the universities of Eastern Finland, Bristol, Leicester, Atlanta, Cambridge, and Innsbruck.

The 15-year follow-up study found people taking a sauna four to seven times a week were 61 per cent less likely to suffer a stroke than those taking a sauna once a week, said a press release issued by the University of Eastern Finland.

Stroke is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, placing a heavy human and economic burden on the society.

The findings are based on the population-based Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor (KIHD) study and involved 1,628 men and women aged 53 to 74 years living in the eastern part of Finland.

Based on their frequency of taking traditional Finnish sauna baths (relative humidity 10-20 per cent), the study participants were divided into three groups: those taking a sauna once a week, those taking a sauna two to three times a week, and those taking a sauna four to seven times a week.

The more frequently saunas were taken the lower was the risk of stroke. Compared to people taking one sauna session per week, the risk was decreased by 14 per cent among those having two to three sauna sessions and by 61 per cent among those having four to seven sessions a week.

The association persisted even when taking into account the conventional stroke risk factors, such as age, sex, diabetes, body mass index, blood lipids, alcohol consumption, physical activity, and socio-economic status. The strength of the association was similar in men and women.

Previous results from the KIHD study at the University of Eastern Finland have shown that frequent sauna bathing also significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.

According to the researchers, the mechanisms driving the association of sauna bathing with reduced stroke may include a reduction in blood pressure, stimulation of the immune system, a positive impact on the autonomic nervous system, and an improved cardiovascular function.

In a recent experimental study, the same group of scientists also showed that sauna bathing has acute effects on the stiffness of the arterial wall, hence influencing blood pressure and cardiac function parameters.