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Frequent sauna bathing brings down stroke risk, says study

Frequent sauna bathing can bring down the risk of stroke, said a new international study, based on a 15-year follow-up on people taking a sauna 4-7 times a week.

the study found that they were 61% less likely to suffer a stroke than those taking a sauna once a week. This is the first such large-scale study and the findings have been published in the journal Neurology.

Stroke is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, with a cascading effect on the economy with huge medical bills and payouts. The reduced risk associated with sauna bathing was found by a team of scientists from the Universities of Eastern Finland, Bristol, Leicester, Atlanta, Cambridge and Innsbruck.

The findings are based on the population-based Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor (KIHD) study. The study involved 1,628 men and women aged 53 to 74 years living in the eastern part of Finland, whose frequency to traditional Finnish sauna baths with a relative humidity of 10-20%.

The participants were divided into three groups: those taking a sauna once a week, those taking a sauna 2-3 times a week, and those taking a sauna 4-7 times a week.

The more frequently saunas were taken, the lower was the risk of stroke, the results showed. Compared to people taking it once a week, the risk considerably decreased by 14% among those with 2-3 sessions and 61% among those with 4-7 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, with no gender bias.

Previous results from the KIHD study at the University of Eastern Finland have shown that frequent sauna bathing reduces the risk of cardiovascular mortality. The association of sauna bathing with reduced stroke may include a reduction in blood pressure, stimulation of immune system, a positive impact on the autonomic nervous system, and an improved cardiovascular function.

In another recent experiment, the same team had shown that sauna bathing has acute effects on the stiffness of the arterial wall, hence influencing blood pressure and cardiac function parameters.

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