Most people’s first thoughts about hot tubs include soaking in warm water, relaxation, and receiving a gentle massage. Very seldom do people immediately think about hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) when a hot tub is mentioned. But those who suffer from it may have more than a passing interest in how a hot tub will affect their condition. Can a hot tub raise your blood pressure? The fact is that using a hot tub can actually lower your blood pressure. To explain more about the science behind this phenomenon, we’ve put together an article to discuss the basics.
What Is High Blood Pressure?
It’s been estimated that around 20% of all Canadians between the ages of 20 and 79 have high blood pressure. Many of these people don’t even realize this fact as the symptoms are rarely noticeable. The only way to ascertain whether you have high blood pressure or not is to get it checked out. Blood pressure is measured by comparing systolic pressure (pressure when the heart pumps) and diastolic pressure (pressure when the heart is at rest between beats.) If these two figures are above 120/80, the blood pressure is considered to be high. Blood pressure can be raised due to genetic factors, smoking, lack of exercise or poor diet - including too much salt, alcohol, caffeine or lack of fruit and vegetables.
Health Problems Associated with High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure increases the strain on the heart, blood vessels and organs such as the kidneys, brain, and eyes. Continual high blood pressure can lead to health problems such as heart attacks and heart disease, strokes, kidney disease and arterial diseases including blood clots. Consistently high blood pressure numbers need to be monitored and steps need to be taken to bring them down.
Hydrotherapy to Control Blood Pressure
Hydrotherapy, or the use of water to treat medical conditions, can be included as part of a program to reduce high blood pressure. By soaking in warm water (ideally between 35 to 40 degrees Celsius) the body’s temperature can be increased, a technique known as passive heating. Even raising the core body temperature by a single degree will dilate blood vessels, increase the heart rate and blood circulation and lower the blood pressure.
There have been scientific studies that have shown that those with high blood pressure who soaked in a hot tub for ten minutes resulted in lowered blood pressure. It’s also been found that exercise in heated water lowered blood pressure with the effects lasting as long as 24 hours after the exercise. Although blood pressure may rise immediately after entering the warm water, it drops off quite quickly shortly thereafter.
Hot Tub Precautions
If you suffer from heart disease, you should consult your doctor before regularly using a hot tub. A quick drop in blood pressure can overwork the heart and cause fainting in those who have a heart condition. You should also keep your soak times limited to 15 minutes or less. No more than 10 minutes is usually advised for those with heart problems. Avoid water temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius and do not drink alcohol when using a hot tub. It’s also recommended to avoid alternating between hot and cold environments if you suffer from a heart condition. Although often practiced by frequent users of saunas and hot tubs, the cold shock can cause your blood pressure to spike dramatically and cause more health problems.