A bath a day may keep heart disease at bay, new study finds

Researchers found that a daily hot bath is far more beneficial to your health than a weekly, or twice weekly dip

Woman in bubble bath, Glasgow, Scotland
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A newly published study has found that a daily hot bath can minimise heart disease risk by 28 per cent, and can also lower risk of stroke by 26 per cent.

Why? Because a hot bath lowers your blood pressure, as researchers noted in a study released in the journal Heart on Tuesday.

"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," the researchers noted.

There's also the fact that heat has a similar effect as physical exercise on the body: heat relaxes blood vessels, getting blood pumping around the body (just as exercise does by increasing the heart's workload).

The research was carried out across 20 years, analysing the bathing habits and disease risk of more than 61,000 adults, aged between 45 to 59, in Japan.

Anyone with a history of cardiovascular disease or cancer was excluded from the study, and the people tracked lived in Akita, Iwate, Tokyo, Nagano and Okinawa.

Interestingly, they found that a daily hot bath is far more beneficial to your health than a weekly, or twice weekly dip.

The researchers also note that it is custom in Japan to immerse your whole body in the bath, standing with the water rising up to your neck. So, having your shoulders immersed may be key to the heatlh benefits.

The research found that the temperature of the water may also have an influence: they saw a 26 per cent dip in heart disease risk with warm water, and a 35 per cent lower risk with hot water.

Researchers did, however, note that extremely hot baths can be dangerous, particularly for the elderly.

The study followed participants with no history of heart disease from 1990 to 2009. They gathered information on other potentially influential factors, such as the person's weight, whether they smoked and how much they exercised. And they did crunch the numbers to factor in these lifestyle influences.

However, there is the possibility that this two-decade-long study is correlation not causation: perhaps those that take regular baths are more likely to participate in other health-giving activities.

So the study has to be seen as a starting point, linking bathing with these potential health benefits, rather than proving it as a watertight benefit.