Case Study: Improving Microvascular Function to Decrease Cardiovascular Risk
Did you know that cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States? Cardiovascular diseases include all diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels. More specifically, about 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year, equivalent to 1 in every 4 deaths. With these high statistics, we are desperately in need of tools to reduce cardiovascular risk.
The University of Oregon conducted an 8 week clinical trial on repeated hot water immersion to record various biomarkers of cardiovascular health in young, somewhat inactive but otherwise healthy individuals. The findings of their study show that heat therapy has positive effects equal to or greater than what is typically observed in healthy subjects with exercise training.
The findings of this study show that for those who do not have the physical ability to exercise in a way that has cardiovascular benefits, passive heat therapy could be an ideal alternative with similar outcomes in preventing cardiovascular risk. Below are some of the findings mentioned in the clinical trial.
Breaking down the study:
The majority of cardiovascular-related diseases are characterized by vascular dysfunction such as impaired endothelial-dependent dilation and arterial stiffening. By finding a way to create long-term improvements in these types of vascular functions, there could be a way to protect against future cardiovascular risk through similar methods.
What makes the Endothelium important? This thin membrane is what lines the inside of the heart and blood vessels. It plays an important role in making sure that the proper amount of blood flows to our tissues and organs. The study found that passive heat therapy, such as soaking in a hot tub, resulted in increases in endothelium-dependent dilation.
Arterial stiffness is generalized as the thickening and stiffening of the arterial wall and is related to high blood pressure or hypertension. The study found that soaking in hot water provided reductions in arterial stiffness.
Blood pressure is the pressure of circulating blood against the walls of blood vessels. High blood pressure causes the heart and blood vessels to work harder and therefore less efficient. Over time, high blood pressure damages the tissues around the arteries and can ultimately lead to a heart attack or stroke. Common treatment plans for high blood pressure include exercise, however, exercise generally has little effect on blood pressure in young individuals. This study observed a significant decrease in resting blood pressure in the test group. Given that heat therapy lowered blood pressure in young individuals, it could become a powerful form of treatment for hypertension.
The results of this clinical trial show that heat therapy has widespread effects on vascular function and could be a possible treatment option for improving cardiovascular health in a variety of patient populations, especially those with limited exercise capabilities.
*This article is not intended to treat or diagnose any individuals with cardiovascular conditions. The intent is to share research that is being conducted on the possible positive effects of soaking in hot water. We encourage you to speak with your own healthcare provider about what the best plan of action is for your particular needs.
Learn more about the study from the University of Oregon here: https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1113/JP272453