We've already heard that things like special enzymes and fresh produce may help ward off Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. According to new research from the University of Eastern Finland, however, you can now add "taking saunas" to that list – and the more often you take them, the better.

The university's Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study involved over 2,000 healthy men aged between 42 and 60, living in eastern Finland. At the start of the study period, the men 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.

After approximately 20 years the scientists checked back on them, to see how many test subjects from each group had developed Alzheimer's or other types of dementia. According to the university, "Among those taking a sauna four to seven times a week, the risk of any form of dementia was 66 percent lower and the risk of Alzheimer's disease 65 percent lower than among those taking a sauna just once a week."

Additionally, earlier research within the same study indicated that frequent sauna-use also significantly reduced the risk of sudden cardiac death, the risk of death due to coronary artery disease and other cardiac events, as well as overall mortality.

The precise reasons why saunas are good for both the brain and the heart still aren't fully understood, although study leader Prof. Jari Laukkanen believes that the two are likely connected. "It is known that cardiovascular health affects the brain as well," he says. "The sense of well-being and relaxation experienced during sauna bathing may also play a role."

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Age and Ageing.

Source: University of Eastern Finland