Frequent sauna bathing is associated with a reduced risk of stroke, according to a new international study, involving UK researchers.
In a 15-year follow-up study, people taking a sauna between four and seven times a week were found to be 61% less likely to suffer a stroke than those taking a sauna once a week.
“Men and women who take frequent sauna baths have a substantially reduced risk of new-onset stroke”
It is the first prospective large-scale study on this topic, according to the study authors, whose findings were reported in the journal Neurology.
The reduced risk associated from saunas with a relative humidity of 10-20% was found by researchers 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 and involved 1,628 men and women aged 53 to 74 years living in the east of Finland.
The study participants were divided into three groups – those taking a sauna once a week, those taking a sauna two to three times a week, and those taking a sauna four to seven times a week.
The more frequently saunas, the lower was the risk of stroke. Compared to people taking one sauna session per week, the risk was decreased by 14% among those with two to three sessions and 61% among those with four to seven sessions.
The association persisted even when taking into account conventional stroke risk factors and the strength of association was similar in men and women.
Previous results from the KIHD study have shown that frequent sauna bathing also significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.
The study authors said: “This long-term follow-up study shows that middle-aged to elderly men and women who take frequent sauna baths have a substantially reduced risk of new-onset stroke.”
According to the researchers, mechanisms driving 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.