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What is HRV? Why is important?

by Ruby Choi 24 Mar 2023 0 σχόλια

HRV, short for heart rate variability, measures the irregularity of heartbeats. A healthy heart has healthy irregularity, and higher HRV typically means better cardiovascular function and stress resistance.

HRV can be influenced by various factors such as stress, mood swings, poor sleep, certain medications, and foods. Wearable smart devices can be used to monitor HRV. To improve HRV, it is important to focus on stress management, sleep quality, healthy diet, and exercise.

This document talks about HRV and how it's important for a healthy heart. If your heart beats 60 times in a minute, there may be a gap of 1.12 seconds between two heartbeats, and then 0.86 seconds between the next two heartbeats. But overall, your heart beats 60 times in a minute on average.

HRV measures the irregularity of the heartbeat. If your heartbeat is regular, then your HRV will be relatively low. Conversely, if your heartbeat intervals vary widely, your HRV will be relatively high.

A high HRV is usually better and means a person is healthier overall.

Irregularities in the heartbeat are controlled by our autonomic nerves. These nerves regulate bodily functions that are not subjectively controlled by the individual, such as heartbeat, breathing, blood pressure, and digestion.

There are two types of nerves that control your body: the sympathetic nerves, which make you feel like you need to fight or run away, and the parasympathetic nerves, which help you relax and digest food.

Heart rate variability (HRV) can reflect the working condition of your autonomic nerves. ****If you are in the sympathetic dominant mode of "fight or flight," your HRV will be lower. If you are in the parasympathetic dominant mode of "relax or digest," your HRV will be higher.

A lower HRV indicates a higher risk of anxiety, depression, morbidity, and cardiovascular disease mortality. Conversely, individuals with higher HRV typically exhibit better cardiovascular function and resilience to stress.

How to monitor HRV?

How can I monitor HRV?

Several smart bracelets, finger rings, and watches support HRV monitoring. Wearable smart devices, such as armband heart rate monitors and chest strap heart rate monitors, can also automatically monitor HRV for you. Chest strap heart rate monitors are generally more accurate.

Coospo HW807 armband heart rate monitor can measure HRV

                  Coospo HW807 heart rate monitor can measure HRV

Note: Optimal HRV range varies based on factors such as age, hormones, and lifestyle.

How is HRV affected, and what is it used for?

Environmental factors, such as stress, can depress your parasympathetic nerves and activate your sympathetic nerves, which can lower HRV.

A lowered HRV indicates that certain factors are affecting you, such as stress, mood swings, and poor sleep. Additionally, smoking, drinking alcohol, and certain medications may also lower HRV.

If your HRV is consistently decreasing, it could indicate an impending illness, so it's crucial to rest and prioritize self-care.

If your HRV is increasing, it means you might be doing something good like eating healthy, getting enough sleep, or doing the right kind of endurance training. On the other hand, if your HRV is decreasing, it might mean you need to change something in your habits.

Monitoring HRV can help you understand your overall health status. HRV may be particularly useful during the following three periods:

Emotional instability period

If you feel that your mood is unstable, monitoring HRV may be important. Research has found that people with lower resting HRV have more difficulty regulating their emotions. These individuals exhibit two specific signs:

  • Difficulty identifying emotions, which means being unable to accurately name the emotion you are feeling or identify its cause.
  • Inability to control impulses, often resulting in immediate anger.

Try taking notes to help recognize your negative emotions, and then try to identify their cause. When your HRV improves, it indicates that your emotional state has improved.

Exercise period

If you are exercising regularly, or have been for a while, keeping track of your HRV can help you better plan your workouts.

When your HRV is high, it is recommended that you engage in high-intensity training.

Conversely, when your HRV is relatively low, it is better to stick to low-intensity training.

Testing your HRV can help prevent overtraining, reduce the risk of injury, and enable you to sustain a high level of performance.

Dietary adjustment period

If you are adjusting your diet, HRV can indicate whether you are heading in the right direction.

The improvements in brain function, cognition, and mood resulting from dietary changes can ultimately be reflected in the HRV metric.

Therefore, by observing changes in HRV, you can determine whether your eating regimen is appropriate.

How to improve HRV?

The level of HRV is an indicator that reflects the overall health of the body. Improving the level of HRV means improving overall health.

To improve the HRV level, attention is needed in four areas: stress, sleep, diet, and exercise.

Stress:

Meditation and deep breathing exercises are effective ways to boost HRV levels. Additionally, studies have shown that practicing yoga is also beneficial in increasing HRV levels.

Sleep:

To sleep better, try these tips:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Get more natural light during the day.
  • Avoid blue light at night.

Diet:

This question varies from person to person. However, there are four principles that should not change:

  • Eat real food and try to avoid overly processed foods
  • Get adequate nutrition
  • Avoid intolerant foods
  • Control the daily eating window to less than 12 hours

Exercise:

Endurance exercises, such as running, swimming and ball games, that don't make you too tired, can make your Heart Rate Variability (HRV) better.

Conclusion

  • A healthy heart exhibits a healthy "irregularity", and HRV measures the irregularity of the heartbeat.
  • Irregular heartbeats are mainly controlled by the nerves that control the body, called the autonomic nerves. HRV can show how healthy the nervous system is.
  • Higher HRV is generally better, indicating better cardiovascular function and stress resistance. Lower HRV can indicate a higher risk of anxiety, depression, and mortality from cardiovascular disease.
  • Excessive stress, mood swings, poor sleep, and certain medications and foods may decrease HRV.
  • Sustained exercise, especially endurance training, can increase HRV, thereby improving cardiovascular function and stress resistance.
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