Having a hot bath five or more times a week could help to prevent a heart attack or stroke, say researchers. Picture: File

It is the perfect excuse to hunt down a rubber duck, pour the bubble bath and settle in for a long soak.

Having a hot bath five or more times a week could help to prevent a heart attack or stroke, say researchers.

A study found that a regular dip in the tub – at 41C (106F) – is healthy for the heart and reduces the chances of hardened, blocked arteries.

It is believed being immersed in water shifts blood flow from the legs and abdomen to the heart, while the high temperature may reduce blood pressure.

Researchers monitored 873 men and women who took baths for an average of 12 minutes, measuring read-outs from the body important to prevent strokes and heart problems. The study, involving Japan’s Kyoto University and published in the journal Scientific Reports, states: ‘Favourable effects of sauna bathing on cardiovascular disease have been demonstrated. Hot water bathing is an alternative, and could also have similar effects.’

Professor Jeremy Pearson, of the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘We can all appreciate the benefits of a hot bath for soothing achy limbs and unwinding. However, there are also plausible reasons for why a long soak could be beneficial for a person’s heart health.

‘This study shows an association between having regular hot baths and some indicators of better heart and circulatory health. However 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.’ Regular sauna visits were reported last month by the University of Bristol to potentially prevent strokes, with people going four to seven times a week almost two-thirds less likely to suffer a stroke than those who went once.

The latest study, led by Ehime University in Japan, asked people how often they bathed and took several measurements.

These included judging the thickness of two layers of the carotid artery to detect stiffened arteries and judging levels of a hormone released when the heart is overloaded and enlarged.

This hormone was significantly lower in people who bathed five or more times a week, and these people had lower warning markers for atherosclerosis – hardened arteries blocked with fatty deposits, which can lead to a blood clot causing a heart attack or stroke.