Regular Sauna Use Linked with Reduced Risk for Stroke

Taking a good hot steam after a swim or as a post-ski warm up not only feels great, regular sauna bathing offers a number of health benefits and according to a recent study, may reduce the risk for stroke.

Stroke is a leading cause of death and adult disability worldwide in people over the age of 60. There are many preventative lifestyle choices that can help reduce the risk for stroke including eating a healthy diet, stopping smoking and getting regular physical exercises.  But for the first time a link has been established between regular sauna use and a significant decrease in the risk of first-time strokes. 

A Finnish study , published in the May 2018 journal Neurology, followed the sauna habits of 1,628 Caucasian men and woman ranging in age from 53 to 74 over a period of 15 years.  People with a history of stroke were excluded from participating.  Researchers found that the group who used saunas between 4 and 7 times weekly had a 61 per cent lower rate of first-time stroke than those who only used a sauna weekly. The benefits of frequent sauna use were found to be independent of other risk factors for stroke such as alcohol use, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes or tobacco use. 

Additional studies are planned to include more diverse ethnicities and age groups to determine whether the results of this promising research can be replicated.  Researchers believe that the heat in a sauna may limit inflammation responses in the body and reduce arterial stiffness which can raise blood pressure and increase the risk for stroke. According to the American Heart Association, most people who have had a first stroke also have high blood pressure.  Sauna bathing may also improve overall well-being as a social and pleasurable experience.