Enjoying daily hot baths may be the key to reducing your risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Most people take an evening soak as a means of relaxing, but research published in the journal Heart shows how important it may be in saving your life.
A long-term study conducted by The Japan Public Health Center found that the more baths are taken, the better it was for cardiovascular health. The study included more than 61,000 middle-aged adults whose ages ranged from 45 to 59 years. At the beginning of the study, approximately 43,000 participants completed a detailed questionnaire on their bathing and lifestyle habits. These included influential factors such as exercise, diet, alcohol intake, body mass index (BMI), and medical history.
During the study, 2,097 cases of cardiovascular disease occurred including 275 heart attacks; 53 sudden cardiac deaths; and 1,769 strokes. This data showed that compared with a once or twice weekly bath or no bath at all, a daily hot bath was associated with a 28% lower overall risk of cardiovascular disease, and a 26% lower overall risk of stroke.
It was also noted that the temperature of the bath showed 26% lower and 35% lower risks of overall cardiovascular disease for warm and hot water, respectively. However, no significant associations were found for overall stroke risk and water temperature.
“We found that frequent tub bathing was significantly associated with a lower risk of hypertension, suggesting that a beneficial effect of tub bathing on risk of cardiovascular disease may in part be due to a reduced risk of developing hypertension,” write the researchers.
They do caution that taking a hot bath is not without risk. A high-temperature bath has been associated with sudden death.
Dr. Andrew Felix Burden comments in a linked editorial, “There can be no doubt about the potential dangers of bathing in hot water, and the occurrence of death from this increases with age, as well as with the temperature of the water.”
Although cardiovascular disease itself is unlikely to be the cause of these deaths, overheating, leading to confusion and drowning, most likely is, he suggests.
“Investigations into the potential cardiovascular benefit of heat-free immersion in warm to hot water are needed,” he says. “In the meanwhile, caution is needed because of the higher mortality associated with such bathing in an unselected population.”
Having a bath has previously been found to improve sleep quality and self-rated health, but the long-term impact of heart disease risk is still unknown. This study helps to answer some questions, but more research is needed to clarify the temperature of the water and the link between sudden death.
For those who love taking a soak at the end of the day, you can take relief in knowing that you may be lowering your risk for cardiovascular disease. If you are not a regular bather but want to try adding more into your routine, start with warm bath water a few times a week and ease into warmer water as your body gets used to the new routine.