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- A twenty-year, 30,000 person study has found that taking more frequent baths can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- This is most likely because taking a warm bath can reduce vascular stress and increase blood flow — some of the same benefits that exercise offers.
- The researchers even found that hotter water produced better results, reporting a 26% lower risk for cardiovascular disease when participants bathed with warm water, and a 35% lower risk for hot water.
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The benefits of taking a bath could be far greater than just relaxation, suggests a new study. Researchers have found that taking a bath could help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Bathing, as opposed to showering, has been linked to numerous physical and mental health benefits — including reducing fatigue, stress, and pain.
But the most recent findings from the journal Heart suggest that taking a warm bath could have a positive effect on heart health too, owing to the benefits of heat exposure on blood flow and vascular function. In fact, the study even found that the more often participants took baths, the less likely they were to develop a range of heart problems
The Japan-based study followed 30,076 participants aged 40-59 with no history of cardiovascular disease or cancer. The participants were then sorted into groups by how often they took baths. The majority – 72% – of participants said they bathed in the tub almost daily while 22% said they tub bathed 3-4 times a week. The final 6% said they tub bathed less than twice a week – presumably, they got clean another way, though the study only reported tub bathing.
The researchers monitored the heart health of these participants from 1990 until 2009. Over twenty years, 2,097 cases of cardiovascular disease were reported, including 1769 strokes, and 53 sudden cardiac deaths.
After accounting for influential factors like socioeconomic status, the researchers found 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.”
Moreover, the temperature of the water seemed to play a factor. The researchers recorded a 26% lower risk for cardiovascular disease when participants bathed with warm water, and a 35% lower risk for hot water. Just be careful not to make the water too hot, since overheating can cause confusion and may lead to trips or falls, the researchers report.
The reason that frequent baths could lower the risk of heart disease is that the heat from the bath has a number of benefits for core temperature and blood flow. In fact, many of these benefits mimic the positive impacts of exercise such as increasing circulation.
Like exercise, taking a bath can also lower blood pressure: “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,” say the researchers.
The study was conducted in Japan, a country with both a prevalent bathing culture and a high number of deaths that take place in the bath. Nearly 80 percent of people in Japan say they prefer bathing to taking a shower, but the prevalence of bathing has become a public health concern.
In 2012, Japan’s health ministry launched an investigation into bath-time fatalities, since the number of people who have died in the bath is almost triple the number of people who have died in a car crash. The country has around 14,000 sudden fatalities take place each year in the bath.
This has led to fear that bathing can induce sudden cardiac death, but the research shows that this is not true. Moreover, according to a 2015 study, the main reasons for bathtub deaths in Japan are drowning and mishaps with alcohol, since a quarter of all fatalities involved blood ethanol levels that exceeded 0.5 mg/mL.
With the fear of sudden cardiac death dispelled, bathers can breathe easy and soak in the heart health benefits of a good bath.