Alzheimer’s Association Shares “10 Ways to Love Your Brain”
How sauna may be able to help you with these practices.
In a recent medical report released by the University of Eastern Finland, the men in the study who used sauna 4-7 times per week were found to have a 65% reduction in risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and a 66% reduction in risk of Dementia. The study is promising and is an indication that additional research should be done on sauna bathing and its impact on Alzheimer’s. In an effort to educate people on ways to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, the Alzheimer’s Association has created a list of “10 Ways to Love Your Brain”.
- Break a sweat – “Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body…Read More”
Sauna has been shown to have similar benefits to cardiovascular exercise, including raising core body temperature to induce sweating, which elevates heart rate and increases blood flow. A sauna bathing study done by Dr. Shields at the University of Iowa shows sauna bathing causes enzymatic changes in the blood that closely simulate the changes present after intense exercise.
- Hit the books – “Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia…”
- Butt out – “Evidence shows that smoking increases risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels compared to those who have not smoked.”
While sauna may not specifically help you stop smoking, it will help you to sweat out impurities and to detoxify. It is also very relaxing, which can help a person through the stress associated with stopping an addiction.
- Follow your heart – “Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke…negatively impact your cognitive health…”
In February 2015, a University of Eastern Finland study showed regular sauna use by middle-aged men improved heart health and reduced the risk of fatal cardiac events.
- Heads up! – “Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia…”
- Fuel up right – “Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline…”
While sauna itself won’t improve your diet, a common practice for many home sauna users is to keep fresh fruit and water in the cooling area between sessions. The light snack is refreshing and helps to rehydrate. It may also help to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.
- Catch some Zzz’s – “Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking.”
One of the most commonly cited benefits of sauna is how well a person sleeps after regular sauna use. The body and mind are more relaxed, and when taken in the evening, the body temperature will increase while in the sauna and will fall as one prepares for bed, inducing a deeper sleep.
- Take care of your mental health – “Some studies link a history of depression with increased risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. Also, try to manage stress.”
Reduced stress and a quiet place to think, to reflect, and to meditate are some of the benefits of sauna that contribute towards improved mental health. As the Alzheimer’s Association recommends, one should seek medical treatment for mental health concerns, but sauna can be an important tool.
- Buddy up – “Staying socially engaged may support brain health…Or, just share activities with friends and family.” Read more.
Sauna is a great place to share time with family and friends. While enjoying the enveloping heat in a sauna, people tend to be more open and honest with each other. For many home sauna owners, the end of the day sauna with a spouse has become sacred time for building and maintaining healthy relationships.
Beyond family, the sauna can serve as a social gathering and team building. Dan Gable, legendary wrestler and coach, frequently comments about the value of the team sauna after practice.
- Stump yourself – “Challenge and activate your mind. Build a piece of furniture. Complete a jigsaw puzzle…
To many in the US who have only used sauna at a health club, the thought of multiple sauna innings may be foreign; however, for home sauna bathers, it is quite normal and preferred. The sauna time itself can become a ritual with time built-in for games, puzzles, or other mentally stimulating activities. When cooling between innings, fit a few puzzle pieces into place or play a hand of cards before going back in for another round.
To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association and the resources they make available, visit www.alz.org. They have many great articles, tips, recommendations, and ways to become involved.