When you’re in a hotspot, like Nawabshah, Pakistan, where the hottest April day ever (122.4 degrees) was recorded this year, it would be hard to imagine that voluntarily going into a traditional Finnish sauna with 20 percent humidity and temperatures of at least 150 degrees would be a boon to your health and happiness.
But according to a study published in the journal Neurology, taking several saunas weekly reduces your risk of having a stroke. (Infrared saunas, where temps are 105-106 degrees, seem to have the same benefit.)
Finnish researchers looked at around 1,600 folks, ages 53 to 74, over a 15-year period and found that two to three saunas weekly cut the risk of stroke 14 percent, and four to seven slashed it by 61 percent, when compared with folks taking only one sauna a week.
While we’re not positive why saunas (Finnish and infrared) are so beneficial, the researchers say it may come from a sauna’s ability to lower blood pressure, in part because it has a positive effect on arterial wall stiffness. They say it also may stimulate the immune system and have a positive effect on the autonomic nervous system, which controls heart and respiration rates, digestion and sexual response.
Your best bet is to start a regular sauna routine when you’re heart-healthy. However, if you have unstable angina or have had a heart attack, check with your doctor.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.