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This Relaxing Activity Could Help Reduce Your Risk of Stroke

This Relaxing Activity Could Help Reduce Your Risk of Stroke

Frequenting the sauna may provide some unexpected health benefits.

When you’re in a hot spot, like Nawabshah, Pakistan, where the hottest April day ever—122.4°F—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°F would be a benefit for your health and happiness. But according to a study published in the journal Neurology, taking several trips to the sauna weekly reduces your risk of having a stroke. And infrared saunas, where temps are 105-106°F, seem to have the same benefit.

Finnish researchers looked at around 1,600 individuals, ages 53 to 74, over a 15-year period and found two to three saunas weekly cut the risk of stroke by 14 percent and four to seven slashed it by 61 percent, when compared to folks taking only one sauna trip a week.

While we’re not positive why saunas (Finnish and infrared) are so beneficial, researchers say it may be due to a sauna’s ability to lower blood pressure, in part because it has a positive effect on arterial wall stiffness. They say it may also 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, double check with your doctor before deciding to unwind in a sauna.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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