Relax in a sauna, and lower your risk of a stroke

Relax in a sauna, and lower your risk of a stroke

People in Finland love their saunas as places where they can retreat to unwind. Nearly every home in the Nordic nation has one, and using a sauna regularly has been linked to lower rates of cardiovascular disease and other health benefits. New research shows using a Finnish-style sauna multiple times each week can also dramatically lower your chances of having a stroke.

British researchers followed more than 1,600 [sixteen-hundred] people ages 53 to 74 with no known history of stroke who were participating in a Finnish heart disease study. Over a 15-year period, men and women who had four to seven sauna sessions a week were 60 percent less likely to have a stroke than those who had one weekly session, according to a report in the journal Neurology.

The finding held true even after adjusting for high cholesterol, smoking, Type 2 diabetes, body mass index, physical activity, and use of aspirin, hypertensives or lipid-lowering medication.

Since most strokes can be attributed to hypertension, sauna use may lower the risk by reducing blood pressure, the team said. The high temperatures of traditional Finnish saunas — 176 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit — with a relative humidity varying from 10 percent to 20 percent, increase blood supply to the periphery of the body, which may be a contributing factor.

Before you rush out for a sauna, understand they might not be for everyone. Sauna use can contribute to dehydration or arrhythmia, especially after drinking alcohol. And the researchers noted the results cannot be applied to infrared heat exposure, steam rooms or hot tubs.

Still, if you have access to a sauna, it’s worth considering a visit. That is, if you can stand the heat.

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