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The U.S. has a higher rate of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia than anywhere else in the world…
Except for Finland...1
The tiny Scandinavian country has 54 deaths per 100,000 people per year from these brain-robbing diseases. And in a nation whose population is just over 5 million, you can bet just about everyone there knows someone who's affected.
Here in America, Big Pharma is desperately working to come up with some new pill to cure AD. Nothing they've come up with so far has worked.
Meanwhile, researchers in Finland have found something startling.
A recent study there shows that people who frequently practice an age-old Finnish tradition have a much lower risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia than those who don't.2
That tradition is sauna use.
Researchers followed more than 2,000 middle-aged men living in Finland. The participants were divided into three groups: those taking a sauna once a week, those taking a sauna two to three times a week, and those taking a sauna four to seven times a week.
The results were striking. The more frequently men took a sauna, the lower their risk of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Over a 20-year period, men taking a sauna four to seven times a week were 66% less likely to develop dementia than those taking a sauna just once a week. And their risk of Alzheimer's disease was 65% lower.
I've been recommending saunas to my patients for more than two decades. Saunas are a great way to detox — and I've also seen how they've improved my patients' brain health.
One way the heat of a sauna helps age-proof your brain is by increasing your body's production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).3
BDNF has been called "growth-hormone" for the brain. This protein increases the creation and growth of new brain cells. It also increases the lifespan of existing brain cells. And it helps the brain develop new neural connections called synapses.
When BDNF levels are high, learning new knowledge is easy and long-term memories are preserved.4 And one study showed that people with the highest levels of BDNF develop dementia 50% less often than people with lower levels.5
Other studies show that frequent saunas reduce the risk of death from coronary artery disease, heart attack, and other cardiac events. It even lowers the risk of overall mortality. That may be why the Finns call the sauna a "poor man's pharmacy."
As long as you are reasonably healthy, you should have no problems with a sauna. But if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure, or if you are pregnant, talk to your doctor first.
6 ways to make the most of the sauna
If you want to use a sauna to improve your brain health and memory, here are some guidelines I give my patients:
1. Build up slowly. Start with no more than five minutes. Saunas will release toxins from your tissues. If you dislodge those chemicals too fast you could get a reaction that feels like the flu.
Add 30 seconds to a minute every day. Work yourself up to 15 or 30 minutes per session. Start with once a week and work up to a daily session if you like.
2. Brush your skin first. Before your sauna, vigorously dry-brush your skin with a natural fiber brush. This removes dead skin cells and stimulates circulation. It helps unblock pores that have been clogged with soaps, lotions and creams. After skin brushing, take a quick warm or hot shower just to rinse off.
3. Hydrate. In addition to removing toxins, a sauna can deplete good minerals like calcium, magnesium and zinc. Be sure to drink plenty of mineral water before, during and after the sauna session to replenish both lost fluids and minerals.
4. Keep it safe. Always use the sauna with a buddy so someone has your back. And be sure to remove contact lenses and all metal objects before entering the sauna.
5. Stay comfortable. Only stay in as long as you feel comfortable. The main risk of a sauna is staying in too long and fainting from overheating.
6. Post-sauna shower. Following the sauna session, gently scrub the toxins and sweat from your skin in a warm or hot shower. Finish with 30 seconds or more of cold water to close the pores. It may take some getting used to. But with regular practice, the cold water will feel less shocking and more invigorating.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
Al Sears, MD
11905 Southern Blvd.
Royal Palm Beach, FL 33411