Taking hot baths could lower your risk of heart disease, new research suggests – as if anyone needed a reason to have a relaxing soak in the tub.
The study, by Ehime University in Japan, found soaking in hot water may reduce the chances of fatty material building up in a person's arteries, but in order to be an effective preventative measure, they had to have more than five hot baths each week - and who really has time for that?
The study of more than 800 adults between the ages of 55 and 77 asked participants how frequently they bathed, the duration of each bath and what temperature they kept their water at. For the purposes of the study, water temperature was classified as hot if it was greater than 41°C, medium if it was between 40–41 °C and lukewarm if it was cooler than 40°C.
Over a five-year period, the participants underwent various tests to monitor their health in relation to heart attack and stroke risk factors. The researchers found those who bathed in water 41°C or more five times per week were less likely to have fatty deposits building up in their arteries than others. Participants had an average bathing time of 12 minutes per bath.
The study did not investigate why hot baths may be associated with improved heart health and Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said we should be cautious about the results.
"This is just an observation and might be related to other lifestyle factors, such as people who have regular baths may also be more likely to live a low-stress lifestyle, or have a healthier diet," he said. "Far more research is needed to understand the link before doctors start prescribing a hot bath to the elderly."
The study also appears to contradict previous research from Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine School of Nursing, Japan, which found having a hot bath could actually increase your risk of having a heart attack. The team looked at 11,000 cases cardiac arrests and found prior to the incident, 22% of people had been sleeping, 9% had been bathing, 3% had been working and 0.5% had been exercising.
The researchers said entering a hot bath on a particularly cold day could cause sudden blood pressure loss, putting stress on the heart. "Preventive approaches such as warming a bathroom and hallway or refraining from taking a deep, hot bath could be important for high-risk people," they said, according to Reuters.