This week we’re looking into an article that was entitled, “Hot baths and saunas: Beneficial for your heart?”
The piece covered the merits of warm emersion on blood pressure management so it’s a great opportunity to not only talk about that, but also some blood pressure management tips too.
Let’s plunge in….
A little Nota Bene to warm up:
Tactics to reduce blood pressure, both medically and lifestyle-related, generally work in the short term to dilate your blood vessels and over the long term to create more vessels.
Imagine your blood and vessels like a road network. If you have the ability to open your hard shoulder and/or can build more roads then congestion will decrease, it’s exactly the same with blood pressure.
Jump in or steer clear?
Jump! (but read the CAUTION signs). There is certainly good scientific evidence that a 10-20 minute warm bath will dilate your blood vessels and lower your blood pressure. The magnitude of the decrease and the duration the benefit will be relatively small but can certainly be used as a tool to help manage your blood pressure, particularly in periods of stress.
As the article warns, we also would not recommend it if you’ve got lower blood pressure (<110mmHg) and it’s important to be careful not to get out of the bath too quickly as it’s likely you may feel light-headed.
Otherwise, please enjoy the simple pleasure!
Other blood pressure management tricks.
Hot baths are one tool in a large toolbox of tactics to help manage blood pressure. Here are some other easy ideas:
Breathing – Slow, deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which has a great effect in decreasing blood pressure acutely. Try 1-3 minutes of 4 seconds in, 6-8 seconds out.
A short walk – a 10 minute walk, similar to a warm up in session can reduce blood pressure by 10-20mmHg. You can also break up your day with frequent movement like this.
Food and drink – following general guidelines of healthy eating in an 80/20 fashion will get you most of the way there, however some try having additional focus on:
- Salt – keep below 6g per day by reducing processed foods and ready meals, avoiding too much table salt and using herbs and spices to flavour foods instead.
- Fruit and veg – aim for 1-2 fist size portions each meal, foods high in potassium (which helps) are dried apricots, lentils, squash, kidney beans and banana.
- Dietary nitrate – add greens and beetroot to meals.
- Alcohol – avoid heavy drinking sessions and try and have at least 2 alcohol free days a week.
- Caffeine – switch to decaff if you can tolerate the difference! On average caffeine acutely increases blood pressure by 3-14mmHg
- Exercise – I know! …. you know. But you can’t get enough of a good thing. Regular resistance and cardiovascular exercise will reduce blood pressure both in the short term (for approx 12h afterwards) and over the long term, by 5-15mmHg.
Thoughts while you soak:
It’s gratifying that something as enjoyable as a hot bath can give you a small but meaningful effect on blood pressure, and if nothing else, help you mentally unwind. However, they won’t work in isolation and there is less evidence of the long-term benefits of baths on your blood pressure and the quality of your blood vessels.
It’s important to think holistically and seek small gains across your entire lifestyle. This is where you’re going to find long-term benefits. As we like to say at CP+R, progress not perfection!
My podcast playlist: “Personalised vitamin plans” , by Greg Foot and Simon Hoban
“The vitamins market is growing fast, with many companies now offering bespoke vitamin plans that claim to produce the perfect personalised prescription just for you. Our listener Gareth wants to know if this could be a quick fix for his low energy and poor diet so Greg is going to find out. He’s got his sights on the popular companies suggesting personalised plans based on a simple online questionnaire that builds up a picture of your vitamin deficiencies via questions about your exercise, stress levels, diet and more.But these personalise plans comes at a premium – some go for close to £25 per month. Greg tests the questionnaires, speaks with nutritional experts, and sees whether Gareth thinks personalised vitamin plans are the best thing since sliced bread, or marketing BS.”