Thursday, March 23, 2017

Cupping — a new treatment with Finn roots

What do Michael Phelps, Olympic swimming medalist, six Minnesota Timberwolves players and Ian Kennedy, a pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, have in common?

One thing is that these athletes exhibited the round red bruises that are marks of cupping.
After Phelps and Kennedy showed up with bruises or reddish splotches in a polka-dot pattern on their bodies, the stories hit the news. Cupping was identified as a traditional Asian therapy. This alternative medicine treatment is being used by a handful of major league athletes.

In that treatment, a glass cup is applied to a particular muscle and heated, which creates suction, which lifts the fascia and skin from the muscle. That’s what causes the bruises. Proponents say it helps increase blood flow and helps tired muscles recover more quickly.

Cupping is also an old Finnish tradition. I first learned about cupping when interviewing Finns about sauna and health. A number of older folks had experienced remarkable health reversals after cupping treatments followed by sauna — though one man barely hobbled into the sauna, a skilled kupperi (person who heals with cupping) enabled him to walk out easily.

When writing “Some Like it Hot,” the descendant of a kupperi sent me an unused cow horn that long ago had been hollowed out, trimmed and otherwise prepared for cupping.

She explained that a balloon would be inserted inside the horn. A small incision was made in a patient’s back, and the balloon/horn assembly placed on top. Then they'd enjoy a good hot sauna. As I understood, the horn suctioned the patient’s circulating blood which gradually filled the balloon.

This drawing gives you a sense of it.

If you are skeptical about how useful this treatment might be, remember that Phelps brought home 5 gold medals and 1 silver from the Rio Olympics.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Sauna reduces risk of dementia?

Yes! The more saunas, the better protection against dementia. Those taking saunas 4 to 7 times a week were 66% less likely to be diagnosed with dementia than those taking a sauna once a week. 

That was a finding recently published in the Age and Ageing journal of a 20-year follow-up study of 2,300 Finnish men who were apparently healthy at the baseline.

The Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study divided the participants into three groups: those taking one sauna a week, or 2-3 times a week, or 4-7 times a week. The risk of Alzheimer's disease was 65% lower for those in the 4-7 times per week group.

In earlier studies, the KIHD has noted that frequent sauna bathing significantly reduces the risk of sudden cardiac death, the risk of death due to coronary artery disease and other cardiac events, as well as overall mortality.

This is the first connection between sauna bathing and dementia risk. 

Further studies are needed to determine the mechanisms between memory diseases and sauna.
According to Professor Jari Laukkanen, the study leader, sauna bathing may protect both the heart and memory to some extent via similar, still poorly known mechanisms. “However, it is known that cardiovascular health affects the brain as well.”

Amazing! Now about those senior moments...

Read the abstract from Science Daily for yourself.

If you understand HRs (Hazard Ratios) and CIs (Confidence Intervals), you may prefer to read it from Age and Ageing.
Tanjaniina Laukkanen, Setor Kunutsor, Jussi Kauhanen, Jari Antero Laukkanen. Sauna bathing is inversely associated with dementia and Alzheimer's disease in middle-aged Finnish men. Age and Ageing, December 2016 DOI: 10.1093/ageing/afw212