Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Saunas helps in reducing high blood pressure?

In a long-range study conducted in Eastern Finland, regular sauna-ing translates into less likelihood for hypertension. Yippee!

An article in the American Journal of Hypertension (13 June 2017) reported a study of 1,621 men ages 42-60 with normal blood pressure. They were followed an average of 25 years, and only 251 developed hypertension.

The study compared the number of sauna sessions with the incidence of hypertension.
          4-7 visits a week: risk reduced by 47%
          2-3 visits a week: risk reduced by 24%

The study also controlled for body mass index, resting heart rate, cardio-respiratory fitness, alcohol consumption, smoking, family history of hypertension, socioeconomic status and other variables.

The observation doesn't prove cause and effect. According to the senior author, Dr. Jari A. Laukkanen, professor of medicine at the University of Eastern Finland, the warmth of the sauna improves flexibility of blood vessels which eases blood flow. Warmth and cooling induces relaxation, helpful in moderating blood pressure. And sweating removes excess fluid, acting as a natural diuretic and one of the oldest methods of treating hypertension.

A healthy thing that is pleasant to do, and involves no sacrifice,” Laukkanen said. 

What a wonderful choice compared to the meds with multiple side effects. 

(Thanks to Tom Nelson for finding this info and sharing it on Facebook.) 

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