When you think of Finland there are few things that immediately spring to mind – snow, Santa, sunlight (or lack thereof) and, of course, sauna. Sauna (the only Finnish word in the English language) is a national pastime in Finland, with around two million saunas in the country of only 5.3 million. The benefits range from relaxing your muscles, cleaning out body toxins and the bacteria resistant walls meant the room was clean enough that Finnish women would give birth in them. Now scientists have discovered another surprising benefit – protecting men from dementia.
In a 20-year study published in the journal Age and Ageing, a team of researchers from the University of Eastern Finland have found a link between frequency of visiting the sauna to the risk of being diagnosed with dementia. What they found is that men who visited the sauna between four and seven times a week were 66 per cent less likely to show any form of dementia, and were also at 65 per cent less risk contracting Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who went just once a week.
The same long term study has previously established that frequent trips to the sauna can also significantly reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death, the risk of death due to coronary artery disease and other cardiac events, as well as overall mortality, but this is the first time they have shown the link with brain health.
“It is known that cardiovascular health affects the brain as well,” says study leader Professor Jari Laukkanen. “The sense of well-being and relaxation experienced during sauna bathing may also play a role.”
So there you have it, what better reason to strip down to a towel (or in the buff if you’re going full Finnish) and flagellate yourself with a bunch of twigs!