04:33 GMT19 February 2020
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    Dementia is a growing problem for Europe's ageing population, but the Finns seem to have found the most Nordic solution to counter the dreadful disease imaginable.

    Men who use the sauna several times a week run a lower risk of memory-related illnesses, including dementia, a pioneering Finnish survey has found. The relationship between the sauna and dementia has not been studied before.

    According to the 20-year survey by the University of Eastern Finland, encompassing over 2,000 eastern Finns, regular sauna-goers are less susceptible to memory disorders and are 66 percent less likely to get diagnosed with dementia as opposed to those who only head to the sauna once a week, Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet reported.

    Previously, regular sauna use was also found to significantly lower the risk of cardiac diseases.

    According to Acting Professor Jari Laukkanen, who led the study, the positive effects of the sauna can potentially also apply to women, yet the matter has not yet been investigated properly. Laukkanen explained that men were chosen as "guinea pigs" because they generally run a higher risk of developing heart diseases than women.

    Laukkanen ventured that the sauna can protect the heart and the mind via the same, as-of-yet poorly understood mechanism. According to the Finnish professor, there is already strong evidence to suggest that frequent sauna bathing lowers blood pressure, which in turn reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

    "We knew from before that cardiovascular diseases also affect the functioning of the brain. The comfortable feeling of relaxation that sauna bathing offers can also have an impact," Jari Laukkanen said.

    According to the Finnish professor, the way sauna us affects various diseases should therefore be investigated further.

    ​Of all the Nordic nations, the Finns are the most notorious sauna-fiends: there are over three million saunas in Finland (a country of 5.4 million), yielding an average of one sauna per household. Saunas are an integral part of the Finnish way of life, as well as a popular means of relaxation. Saunas are found in public places, private apartments, corporate headquarters, and even at the House of Parliament. There is an unwritten code of conduct for the sauna and before the rise of modern public health care, most Finnish babies were born in saunas.

    In 2012, Alzheimer Europe estimated the number of dementia sufferers in Finland at 92,200: 1.71 percent of the total population of 5.4 million and somewhat higher than the EU average of 1.55 percent.


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