Could a bath a day help keep heart disease away?

A daily bath could lower your risk of heart attack and stroke, according to new research

Good news for those who love a soak in the tub; a new Japanese study has found that taking a bath every day could help lower your risk of death from heart disease and stroke.

Carried out by researchers from Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine and other institutions in Japan, the new study looked at 30, 076 participants aged 40 to 59 years of age with no history of cardiovascular disease (CVD) or cancer at the start of the study.

The participants were asked to provide information on their lifestyle, including exercise, diet, alcohol intake, weight (BMI, average sleep duration, medical history and current medicines use, and were then followed from 1990 to 2009. 

The findings, published online in the journal Heart, showed that after taking into account potentially influential factors, taking a hot bath every day was linked with a 28 percent lower overall risk of cardiovascular disease, and a 26 percent lower overall risk of stroke, compared with taking a bath once or twice a week or no bath at all.

The temperature of the water also appeared to be linked to CVD risk, with the team finding that those who preferred a warm temperature had a 26 percent lower risk of overall cardiovascular disease, and those who preferred hot water had a 35 percent lower risk. However, no significant association was found between water temperature and overall stroke risk.

The researchers noted that how often the participants took a bath didn't appear to increase the risk of sudden cardiac death, or of a particular type of stroke called subarachnoid hemorrhage (which is when there is bleeding in the space around the brain), however, a linked editorial points out that sudden death associated with hot baths is relatively common in Japan.

"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," said Dr. Andrew Felix Burden in the linked editorial.

While the researchers note that taking a hot bath is not without its risk, particularly if the temperature is too hot, they add that it still appears bathing can bring health benefits, with having a bath also previously associated with improved sleep quality and self-rated health.