University of Eastern Finland: Frequent Sauna Bathing Reduces Risk of Stroke

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Frequent sauna bathing may significantly reduce the risk of stroke, according to a long-term study.

The reason may be attributed to atherosclerosis, the narrowing of arteries which is a major risk factor for stroke. Compared to people taking one sauna session per week, the risk was decreased by 14% among those with 2-3 sessions and 61% among those with 4-7 sessions.

"Sauna is a safe activity and has a lot of beneficial health effects in addition to its stress releasing and relaxation effects", Kunutsor said.

A group of people who used 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, a study found.

"Middle-aged men should be heartened to know that frequent sexual intercourse is not likely to result in a substantial increase in risk of strokes and that some protection from fatal coronary events may be an added bonus", stated a cohort study with a 20-year follow up. The hazard ratio was 0.39 after further adjustment for established cardiovascular risk factors and other potential confounders and persisted at 0.38 after additional adjustment for physical activity and socioeconomic status.

Research has claimed that moderate consumption of chocolate may be linked to a lower risk of stroke.

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Dietary tweaks can also help cut down the risk of stroke in most people. While studies have shown correlation, the American Heart Association has deemed the evidence inconclusive to suggest causation. Based on their sauna bathing habits, the men were divided into three sauna frequency groups: those taking a sauna once a week, 2-3 times a week, or 4-7 times a week.

Researchers note that more investigation is needed to compare with non-sauna users given the popularity in Finland.

"Sauna appears to have a blood pressure-lowering effect", Kunutsor said.

Researchers, however, cautioned that the study was observational in nature.

The American Academy of Neurology is the world's largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals, with over 34,000 members. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.