Relax and slash your dementia risk by half

Sometimes, managing your risk of dementia feels like a full-time job…

You have to overhaul your diet, exercise daily, keep up with social engagements, play brain games, learn new skills — all in the hopes you’ll dodge a dementia diagnosis in your senior years. Frankly, it can get exhausting.

But if you’re feeling burnt out on your dementia prevention plan, there is something you can do to recharge your battery right now while still cutting your dementia risk significantly — visit a sauna.

The latest research from Finland suggests that a little time in a steamy sauna can work wonders for your brain health. In fact, if you spend enough time getting sweaty in a sauna, you may be able to slash your dementia risk by more than half.

Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland studied the health records of over 2,000 middle-aged men, and they found that sauna visits and dementia risk were closely intertwined. More specifically, the more frequently these men sweated it out in a sauna, the less likely they were to develop dementia later on.

Men who visited a sauna four to seven times per week, for example, had a 66 percent lower risk of developing dementia and a 65 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s than men who went to the sauna one time per week.

That’s a big payoff for such a pleasurable activity. So why do saunas have such a substantial impact on your cognitive health?

The surprising benefits of saunas

A sauna’s cognitive health benefits most likely come from its ability to help you sweat out toxins, along with its ability to make you feel calm and relaxed. And these two abilities will help your health in countless other ways too.

Besides reducing your dementia risk, saunas have also been shown to:

  • Relieve pain
  • Ease insomnia
  • Increase circulation
  • Promote a healthy immune response

And another recent study from the University of Eastern Finland even found that men who frequented the sauna had a lower risk of sudden cardiac death and death from any cause.

Now, when most people think of saunas, they think ‘steamy heat.’ And steamy heat is great for sweating out toxins. But not all saunas are the same.

Take the infrared sauna. This type of sauna uses infrared light to create heat. This light passes through your skin to deeper tissues, raising core body temperature by 2-3 degrees. According to Dr. Michael Cutler, this causes a much more effective removal of fat-soluble toxins, heavy metals, sulfuric acids, ammonia, sodium, and uric acid than only heating ambient air around you.

So when it comes to dementia (and a lot of other health problems), it seems like a little detoxing and R&R in the sauna is just what the doctor ordered… so check out a local spa or maybe even the YMCA or YWCA in your town.

But if you’re going to start frequenting the sauna a few times per week, there are a few precautions you should follow. Saunas raise your body temperature significantly, so you need to be careful not to get overzealous and overdo your sauna time.

For a safe and healthy sauna session you should:

  • Avoid alcohol before heading to the sauna.
  • Check to make sure none of your medications impair your body’s ability to sweat.
  • Avoid the sauna if you’re feeling under the weather.
  • Limit your sauna time to 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Get out of the sauna if you begin to feel dizzy, faint or sick.
  • Give yourself a few minutes to cool down afterward.
  • Drink at least two to four glasses of water after you get out.

Editor’s note: Losing your mental faculties is not something you should just accept as part of aging. Learn more about strengthening your brain in An Active Healthy Mind At Any Age — on sale today!

  1. “Frequent sauna bathing protects men against dementia.” MedicalXpress. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  2. “Sauna bathing is inversely associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in middle-aged Finnish men.” Age and Ageing, 2016; 0: 1-5.
  3. “Why saunas are good for you.” Australian Natural Health Magazine. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  4. “Sauna Health Benefits: Are saunas healthy or harmful?” Harvard Health Publications. Retrieved December 16, 2016.


Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and