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Heart attack and stroke, cut your risk by visiting a sauna regularly

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Heart attack or stroke can prove fatal if you are not careful. However, you can minimise the risk if you visit a sauna regularly. Turns out, this recreational habit can protect you from a host of ailments, other than keeping your heart healthy and keeping strokes away. A study, conducted by the University of Bristol, suggess that people who regularly take saunas may face a far lower stroke risk than those who go less often.

A 2016 study done by the University of Eastern Finland found that frequent sauna bathing may be linked with a reduction in the risk of dementia in men. A 2017 study done by the same university found that visiting the sauna four times a week can lower blood pressure for men. A 2018 study found that taking a sauna bath of 30 minutes reduces blood pressure and increases vascular compliance and heart rate similar to medium-intensity exercise.

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The current report, published in the journal Neurology, is the first to assess the relationship between saunas and strokes, and was based on more than 1,600 Finnish people who were followed for an average of 15 years.The results show that those who spent time in the sauna four to seven days a week showed a 61% lower risk of having a stroke than people who went just once a week.

Saunas are great to reduce blood pressure levels.
(Shutterstock)

A love for sauna

In Finland, saunas are so common that many people have them in their homes. Their relative humidity is usually 10-20%. The sauna (which means “bath” in Finnish) is also a ritual which Finland’s 5.5 million inhabitants carry out at least once a week.

Finland even hosts a sauna world championship, an annual endurance test that occasionally, as in 2010, ends in death for competitors taking the heat in temperatures hitting 110 degrees Celsius (230 Fahrenheit).

What the study shows

A benefit was also apparent for those who took saunas two or three times a week, with a 14% lower stroke risk than those who took saunas once per week. Researchers found the benefits persisted even after adjusting for other factors that could affect stroke risk, including exercise, high cholesterol, smoking and diabetes.

“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,” said study author Setor Kunutsor of the University of Bristol. “Saunas appear to have a blood pressure lowering effect, which may underlie the beneficial effect on stroke risk.”

Researchers cautioned that the study was observational in nature. Since it was based on questionnaire answers, it stopped short of proving cause and effect. However, experts caution that some people should avoid saunas, including those who recently had a heart attack, those with unstable angina, and elderly people with low blood pressure.

(With inputs from AFP)

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