Some hot news for a cold day

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Emily Mongan
Emily Mongan

If there's ever been a more perfect time to read up on a study involving saunas, it's this week. Much of the country is in the grip of the polar vortex and my own phone was showing a balmy 0° when I woke up Monday.

If you're as cold as I am (I'm writing this while wrapped in a sweater with a space heater blowing directly at me), and you can somehow find your way to a sauna, there's good news: Working up a sweat in a sauna a few times a week can do more than just warm you up.

A 20-year-long study from the University of Eastern Finland, published earlier this month in Age and Ageing, found that men who used a sauna four to seven times a week were up to 66% less likely to be diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's disease, compared to men who participated in only one sauna session per week.

Researchers believe their results, while limited, could be attributed to the saunas' ability to improve circulation and reduce blood pressure, both of which are believed to help reduce dementia risk. The sense of well-being and relaxation experienced while hanging out in a sauna may also play a role, added lead researcher Jari Laukkanen, M.D., Ph.D.

Previously published results of the sauna research, conducted as part of the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Study, also found regular sauna sessions helped reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death, as well as overall mortality.

While the study's findings didn't show how the sweat sessions impacted women's dementia and Alzheimer's risk, I'm still planning on testing it out the next time I go to a gym or stay in a hotel with a sauna in it. At best, I'll help set myself up for brain health as I get older — and at the very least I won't have to spend all of my winter feeling like this.

Have a happy holiday season, and try to stay warm!

Follow Emily Mongan @emmongan.

Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.