Sitting in a sauna is one of the most traditional (literally, ancient) ways to unwind and practice self-care. And although science has already pinpointed health benefits to soaking in the infrared heat, like that it keeps your blood pressure low, a new study has found that it might also diminish the likelihood of having a stroke.
The 15-year study, published in Neurology, looked at 1,628 adults, aged 53 to 74, with no history of strokes, who live in Finland—a country reportedly teeming with about 3 million healing saunas. The participants were categorized into three sauna-bathing frequency groups. They filled out questionnaires to record how often they visited as well as details about their overall lifestyle (alcohol intake, physical activity, blood pressure, etc.).
The group of participants who went to a sauna four to seven times a week had a rate of 2.8 strokes per 1,000 years (i.e., an extremely low risk). The rate was 7.4 for the group that went two to three times a week and 8.1 for the one that went once a week.
Over the course of the study, 155 of the participants experienced a stroke. From these results, researchers determined that the group of participants who went to a sauna four to seven times a week had a rate of 2.8 strokes per 1,000 years (i.e., an extremely low risk). The rate was 7.4 for the group that went two to three times a week and 8.1 for the one that went once a week.
Senior study author Setor K. Kunutsor, PhD, told Medical News Today that the relationship between saunas and lessening your chances of experiencing a stroke might be because unwinding in a sauna is a relaxing practice and is shown to reduce blood pressure. “These results are exciting because they suggest that this activity that people use for relaxation and pleasure may also have beneficial effects on your vascular health,” he says.
Still, there is a significant caveat: The study can’t prove that going to a sauna is what lowers your risk of experiencing strokes. For example, it could be that people who go to sauna once a day lead a life of leisure, whereas those who visit less frequently likely have stressful lifestyles or jobs that keep them busy.
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