Frequent sauna bathing is associated with a reduced risk of stroke, according to a new international study .
In a 15-year follow-up study, 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. This is the first prospective large-scale study on this topic, and the findings were reported in Neurology.
Stroke is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, placing a heavy human and economic burden on societies.
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 with two to three sessions and 61 per cent among those with four to seven sessions. The association persisted even when taking into account 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 association was similar in men and women.
Dr Francesco Zaccardi from the Diabetes Research Centre and Leicester University Department of Health Sciences, who was involved in the research, said: “Sauna continues to show potential beneficial health effects. After demonstrating an association with a reduced risk of hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease, and death for cardiovascular diseases in frequent sauna users, the latest study indicates that sauna may also reduce the risk of stroke.”