Using Finnish-style saunas could significantly lower stroke risk, suggests an observational study conducted by researchers at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom; results were published in Neurology. Finnish saunas are the hot and dry type that can be found in nearly every home in Finland.
The study involved data on 1,628 people ages 53 to 74 who were in the Finnish Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease prospective cohort. The researchers found that middle-aged and elderly men and women who averaged four to seven saunas per week were 60 percent less likely to have a first stroke than those who averaged just one sauna a week. The data was collected over a 15-year period and the results remained consistent even after the researchers adjusted for stroke risk factors like high cholesterol, smoking, type 2 diabetes, overweight/obesity, and others.
According to the researchers, the high temperatures used in Finnish saunas may improve blood flow, which may lower ischemic stroke risk, and to a lesser extent, hemorrhagic stroke risk. They also indicated that their results cannot be applied to infrared heat exposure, steam rooms, or hot tubs, and cannot be used to compare stroke risk in people who use saunas to those who have never used them.