Thursday, October 4, 2018

Mayo Clinic — sauna as healthful as regular exercise

The Mayo Clinic Proceedings has published a paper reviewing sauna research — they're as healthful as regular exercise!! The Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Washington Post reported it, among other news outlets.

Of course, this is no surprise to regular sauna-goers. But what's special is that our own Mayo Clinic has endorsed the practice in a paper, “Cardiovascular and Other Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing: A Review of the Evidence.”

Their conclusion is that sauna bathing may be linked to reducing the risk of:
Sauna helps people relax.
  • vascular diseases like
    • high blood pressure,
    • cardiovascular diseases and
    • neurocognitive diseases,
  • non-vascular conditions such as
    • pulmonary diseases,
  • mortality,
  • amelioration of conditions such as
    • arthritis,
    • headache and
    • flu.

Over the years, physicians and researchers have tested — and documented — a wide variety of health benefits, such as reducing the risk of dementia or high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, allergic rhinitis, chronic fatigue, exposure to methamphetamines or environmentally-induced diseases, depression or rheumatoid arthritis. In previous posts, I've summarized many studies, long range and short, testing men or women, healthy and ill — with proven evidence. The studies may have not been large, but there have been many.

The Mayo Clinic Proceeding publication looked at all studies through February 2018.
  • The subjects spent from 5 to 20 minutes in saunas which were heated from 175 to 210 degrees. (That's a considerably shorter time span and hotter temperatures than I recall reading about in other studies.)
  • The sauna was followed with a swim, shower or other return to room temperature.
  • Exposure to the sauna pumped up the subjects' heart rates to 120 to 150 beats per minute and increased blood flow to the skin similar to moderate exercise.
Several large studies linked sauna bathing to lower blood pressure and decreased artery stiffness. And frequent sauna bathers (4 to 7 times a week) have 60% lower rates of heart disease and stroke than once-a-week-ers.

Which would you rather do — work out or sauna? For me, when it's 8 p.m., that's time to turn on the sauna stove. But it's always even better after a bike ride or ski afternoon.

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Nothing says Christmas like Finnish emojis

#4 of this occasional series

The Finnish emojis have humorously rebranded some of our Christmas icons.

The series began because Finns claim the original Santa as their own. You didn’t know he is actually from Korvantunturi, in Lapland? And you thought it was the North Pole — silly you. This emoji represents the feeling of never-ending wait for Santa.

At Christmas there’s a special pastry, called joulutorttu. The Finland site This is Finland describes it as the feeling of having one too many. “Every year you burn your mouth on the first one — beware of the plum jam in the middle! The sweet taste and nostalgia make up for it.” (More on this and other Finnish Christmas customs—see my posts in December 2015.)

A pikkujoulut is the Christmas party emoji, in which Finns depart from their quiet selves and become wild party animals.

Rounding out the set are five more, that describe feelings during our long winters.
Wooly socks — the feeling of granny-made warmth — are worn while skiing or while sick, like a Finnish national costume, and even with flip-flops. (Remember Fashionista Finns, in post #3?)

A sleeping bear — wanting to sleep all winter. “Sometimes when the long dark winter seems to stretch endlessly ahead, you just feel the bears have a point in hibernating.”

The feeling of sunless days — that period between December and January is called kaamos.

Stuck” is that very universal experience of putting one’s tongue on metal when it’s freezing outside. You    know you shouldn’t — but you try it anyway.

Four season BBQ and “Meanwhile in Finland
both express a sense that temps around 0°C seem warm — and we see folks wearing shorts, even people sunbathing, because we’re sooo tired of winter.

Ahh, yes, winter.

Monday, October 3, 2016

And more emojis — which mystify me

#3 in this series of 4

Here are more Finnish emojis — these express characteristics I don’t know much about. Or am I just not seeing the truth?

Torilla tavataan — The feeling when something so great happens you just have to share it with somebody. “Although Finns are not crowd-loving ‘samba people’ by nature, when something great happens, we Finns head for the market square. There’s one in every city. If Finns win an ice-hockey tournament, a singing contest or pretty much anything, the market square is the place to go.”

Matti Nykänen — the feeling of bon voyage. “Matti Nykänen, the world’s most successful ski jumper ever, has introduced some of the well-used catchphrases for Finnish language. We say ‘every chance is an opportunity’ or we estimate the percentages with ‘fifty-sixty’ share. One thing we know for sure: ‘life is life.’ ”

Karjalanpiirakka — the feeling of craving something delicious. Karjalanpiirakka is a traditional pasty or pie originally from the region of Karelia. It is a rye crust usually with a filling of rice porridge. The original topping is egg butter. Karjalanpiirakka is eaten all over Finland at all times and occasions from breakfast to weddings.” Serious yum.

black gold (has to be chocolate!)

Finnish love — “Finnish love is often quiet. Finns won’t shout about love to the world. Actions speak louder than words. When we do love someone, it’s deep — very deep.” (The old joke — about the couple who hadn’t said the words “I love you” for over 50 years, because it had been said once, and nothing had changed — comes to mind.)

Happiness — the feeling of winning [over] our lovely neighbor Sweden in anything.

Iceman — the feeling of “Leave me alone. I know what I’m doing.” “This Finnish attitude was made famous by the Iceman himself, Formula 1 driver Kimi Räikkönen, who quite nicely sums it all up.

Headbanger — the feeling of banging your head. In Finland, heavy metal is mainstream. “There are more heavy metal bands in Finland per capita than anywhere else.”

Unbreakable — “Finns are tough, almost unbreakable. Finland has produced quite a bunch of unbreakable and long-lasting items such as the old Nokia 3310 phone which is famous for being, well, unbreakable.”

Lost hopes — the feeling of getting your hopes up. Every time. “Finland is
notorious for its lack of success in the Eurovision Song Contest. Each time we wait for a win but get zero points. So to get back at them we entered a band of monsters in 2006 — and won.”

I need a bit of clarification to understand these better —
a trusted friend,
pusa hispidi saimensis
the voice, the conductor and the king.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

More Finnish emojis--is that me?

On August 15, 2016, I wrote about sauna-and-summer-related Finnish emojis, which This is Finland began sharing last Christmas. 
I admit to being slow on the uptake here — I downloaded them on my phone but have to reset something to make them operable (Rats!).  
This post continues  #2 in the emoji series, with two more posts after this. The traits these emojis catalog are not hidden very deep in me, as family and friends will attest.

 With white clouds and blue skies, summer lakes and snow drifts — the Finnish flag, of course.

Handshake — the feeling of trust. “Finns can be almost ridiculously law-abiding and trust others to do the right thing. We say what we do and do what we say. We shake hands on it. It’s a deal.”

Peacemaker —Martti Ahtisaari, the former President of Finland from 1994-2000 and United Nations diplomat, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008 for his efforts to resolve international conflicts on several continents and over more than three decades.

Reindeer — for mixed feelings. “Finns love reindeer — in all forms. Reindeer are useful animals in many ways. They are cute — but reindeer stew is delicious. You eat it with mashed potatoes and lingonberries.” That describes “mixed feelings” pretty well, I’d say.

Girl power — Finland was the first country in the world to give women both the right to vote and to be elected. Finnish women are highly educated and full-time employment is the norm. The pronoun ‘hän’ means both she and he.

Suomi mainittu — “the feeling when someone mentions Finland abroad. Finns are always excited when someone — anyone — mentions Finland abroad. When you come to Finland, be prepared to tell what you think about Finland and Finns.”

Coffee — Turns out Finland consumes more coffee in the world than anyone else.

Waiting — “Finns respect the privacy and personal space of others, and expect the same in return. We tend not to sit down next to anyone if another seat is available. When talking to a Finn, don’t stand too close — unless you want to see a Finn slowly edging backwards.” This is why we sit so far apart in church, then?

Fashionista Finns —  socks with my sandals seem so practical... 

And a few more — Moomin Mama (of course you've read the Moomin books),

baby in box (extensive baby supplies which Finland provides to all new parents in a sturdy box which the parents often use as a first crib!),

kokko (one amazing bonfire)
and the cap (to honor graduates).

Aren’t they fun!! Visit This is Finland to download them.