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What Should Heart Rate Variability Be

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How Can You Track Your Hrv

Everything You Should Know About Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

According to Dr. Horwich, the most accurate way to track heart rate variability is by getting a continuous electrocardiogram, EKG, which records the electrical signal from your heartbeats. To record the heart rhythm over a period of time, the cardiologist will have the person wear something called a Holter monitor or patch, which captures an EKG even while the person is on the go.

What about smartwatches? Dr. Horwich says the HRV from smartwatches is based on the heartbeats it detects from your wrist pulse, so it may not be as accurate as the reading you get from an EKG that’s reading the heartbeats from your chest.

This doesn’t mean you need to discredit that number though, because your smart tracker’s HRV can still be something you speak to your doctor about if you’ve noticed a stark change over time. But as you track it on your device, the main thing to remember is not to stress over it, because again, it may not be 100 percent accurate . So you can take note of it, acknowledge it, bring it up to your doctorbut don’t panic over it.

What Controls The Heart Rate Variability

The autonomic nervous system controls your HRV. The ANS, divided into two components, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system, regulates your heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and breathing. These two components are referred to as the fight-or-flight system and the relaxation response.

The hypothalamus, a small region located above the brain stem, constantly process information and transmit signals to the rest of the body through the ANS. The signals can either relax or stimulate different functions in your body, including your HRV. Depending on how you respond, especially in the case of constant negative signals, it can affect the functioning of your fight-or-flight response, forcing your heart rate into overdrive.

Although the ANS influences the rate at which your heart beats, the heart beats on its rhythm because of the Sinoatrial node , a natural pacemaker that controls the heart rate. The SA node keeps the heart beating around 100 beats per minute.

The ANS affects the heart rhythm on a cellular level:

  • The relaxation response tells your heart to slow down, making room for changes between beats
  • Your brain’s fight-or-flight system tells your heart to speed up, reducing space for change .

Why Standard Autonomic Nervous System Testing Methods Miss Most Cases Of Dysautonomia And Vagopathy

Most analysis for autonomic nervous system function relies on changes in blood pressure with various position changes. Blood pressure, unfortunately, is a latter finding in dysautonomia and vagopathy whereas changes in HRV occur much sooner. Baseline HRV and HRV parameter changes to stressors is a much more sensitive test and shows up much sooner when dysautonomia and vagopathy are present. Also, since HRV testing can be done at home it can be utilized to assess the progress of treatment.

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Heart Rate Variability And Your Health

Heart rate variability is a great indicator of overall health and fitness, says Froerer. Even though your personal HRV changes are the most important to keep an eye on, generally speaking, a “high HRV is associated with increased cognitive function, the ability to recover faster, and, over time, can become a great indicator of improved health and fitness,” she says. On the other hand, a low HRV is associated with health conditions such as depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, and increased risk of coronary heart disease, she says.

Here’s the thing: While good HRV has been tied to good health, research hasn’t looked at sophisticated HRV patterns enough to make concrete cause-and-effect statements about HRV and your health, says Dr. Menolascino.

Still, heart rate variability is, at least, a good indicator of how stressed you are and how well your body is handling that stress. “That stress can be physical or chemical ,” explains Froerer. In fact, HRV’s relationship to physical stress is the reason why it’s considered a useful training tool by athletes and coaches.

How Do I Get My Heart Rate In The Target Zone

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) in Sport: A Review of the ...

When you work out, are you doing too much or not enough? Theres a simple way to know: Your target heart rate helps you hit the bullseye so you can get max benefit from every step, swing and squat. Even if youre not a gym rat or elite athlete, knowing your heart rate can help you track your health and fitness level.

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Is Heart Period A Driver Of Hrv Independent Of Vagal Activity

For RSA, heteroscedasticity would be in play when the ongoing mean level of the heart period would determine the effect of phasic respiratory-coupled changes in vagal activity on the difference in the longest and shortest heart period in a respiratory cycle. In such a scenario, a reduction in vagal activity from 12 to 10 spike trains per second during inspiration could lead to a phasic shortening of the heart period that would scale, for instance, linearly with the mean heart period. As a result, identical changes in vagal activity will yield a larger respiratory-induced variance in heart period if the mean heart period is longer. A possible biophysical mechanism for a direct causal dependency of heart period variance on the mean heart period was proposed by Monfredi et al. based on the original work by Rocchetti et al. . The proposed mechanism is nicely illustrated in an editorial by Stauss , of which we capture the geometric essence in Figure a. This proposed mechanism critically assumes that the effects of ACh on the steepness of the diastolic depolarization rate of pacemaker cells are independent of the mean heart period .

Figure 3


Mistake 6 Not Putting The Hrv Readings Into Context

We like to call HRV the glue marker. It is a powerful biomarker that binds together other subjective and objective data for more effective decision making. When measured alone, without any other context, HRV tells you the general state of your nervous system and health but cannot tell you what is causing or affecting your condition.

Tracking HRV in conjunction with additional context such as energy levels, fitness tests, sleep quality, a food log, etc. can help you identify what specific lifestyle factors are most affecting your systemic health and progress.

What you track alongside HRV depends very much on your goals, and working with a coach or health practitioner is hands down the best way to determine what additional metrics to pay attention to.

Some common examples include:

  • Perceived energy levels or fatigue
  • Muscle soreness
  • Blood pressure / glucose
  • Drop jump force output testing

When measured alone, without any other context, HRV tells you the general state of your nervous system and health but cannot tell you what is causing or affecting your condition.

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How Is Heart Rate Variability Measured

Heart rate variability is measured with instrumentation that simultaneously records the patients heart rate changes with respiratory frequency, with duration of inhalation and exhalation, etc. The instrument identifies the optimal breathing pattern to maximize heart rate variability.

Heart rate variability measurement provides a special window and very effective method to measure how balanced your autonomic nervous system is functioning. The autonomic nervous system influences important contributors to your overall health, regulating processes like heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, metabolism and immune system functioning. Our autonomic nervous system’s nerves stimulate and regulate our internal organs, so its extremely important that the system is operating at an optimum balance.

An imbalance in the autonomic nervous system, resulting in a reduced heart rate variability due to the presence of an overstimulated sympathetic nervous system and/or an underactive parasympathetic nervous system , may increase your risk for cardiovascular diseases and other disorders. It is also seen in anxiety and depression.

What does that mean in laymans terms? Reduced heart rate variability is a marker for cardiovascular disorders including hypertension and heart disease, and is associated with vulnerability to stress and disease. You are more vulnerable if you suffer a myocardial infarction .

Mistake 2 Assuming A High Reading Is Always Good

Stressed? Depressed? How and Why You Should Track Heart Rate Variability (MHM Ep.3)

Just as a low HRV reading is not always bad, a high HRV reading is not always good. If a single HRV measurement is abnormally high compared to an individuals baseline or norm, then it can mean something is off. Here are a few examples of when a high reading does not always indicate better health and resiliency.

  • For certain mild illnesses or sicknesses, an elevated immune system can increase Heart Rate Variability. This is favorable for recovery from the illness but should not be seen as an increase in health.
  • If an individual is in a state of hyper recovery, their HRV can be abnormally high. When the body accumulates too much stress to the point where it can no longer effectively handle the stress and resources are depleted, the body might force itself into a hyper-recovery mode as a last resort to protect itself. This state is not ideal for long-term health or performance.
  • Continuous low grade stressors can cause HRV to be higher in the short term because the body is constantly trying to recover from them. If your HRV is high but you frequently feel fatigued or drained, then you might be exposed to chronic low grade stress that is constantly stealing energy and resources from your body. This is not ideal and over the long-term, if these accumulated low grade stressors are not dealt with, they can eventually cause HRV and health to decrease.

A high reading does not always indicate better health and resiliency.

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When And How To Measure Hrv

  • HRV should be measured while youre sitting or standing upright. Parasympathetic saturation, a phenomenon caused while lying down, makes trends in HRV harder to interpret.
  • HRV is best taken in the morning because your cortisol awakening response will make the reading different at other times.
  • If you cant take the reading within an hour of your usual time then dont take it that day. Taking your reading at the wrong time will not represent your awakened state accurately and you may alter your baseline.

What Is A Good Hrv Measurement

There are no absolutes when it comes to HRV, only individual trends.

In general, a higher HRV indicates that you are more relaxed and less stressed than a lower HRV does. However, what is an abnormally low HRV for one person can be a high one for someone else. Whoop, a manufacturer of heart rate trackers, has a useful graph on its site showing the middle 50% of values for people at different ages: Its quite a large range.

Instead, what youre looking for is changes in HRV. If your HRV drops lower over a few days, you might be more stressed than normal, not sleeping well, or even getting sick. Or, you could just be working out a bit too hard and needing to take a day or two off.

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Heart Rate Variability Key Takeaways

  • HRV is a measure of your bodys total stress load. Generally, a high HRV means that you can train or work harder. And a low HRV means that your body needs time to rest and recover.
  • Consistently monitoring your HRV helps you plan your training, thereby reducing stress overload and downtime from illness or injury.
  • You can use your daily HRV readings to see what activities affect your stress load, such as how much sleep you need and what helps you recover faster.
  • HRV helps you stop and notice your stressors. If you follow your HRV youll be reminded to take a rest when you need it most. You can avoid pushing yourself unnecessarily beyond your limits.
  • Maintaining a high HRV may be one of the keys to longevity and growing younger. And the things that can improve HRV can also improve your other biomarkers of health.
  • Exercise, stress reduction, and eating greens can help protect your autonomic nervous system, your heart, and slow down aging.
  • HRV is only one metric and therefore it does not give a complete picture of your health. Track and compare your HRV with your subjective indicators. Do your readings match how you feel?

What are your thoughts on HRV? Could tracking your HRV help you?

My Secret Weapon Resources For Health

Find more useful tools and products for HRV and health at my resources page to learn about the natural and whole food supplements and products that I use every day. What is the easiest way to eat your greens?

Relation To Resting Heart Rate

Heart Rate Variability Test

When asked to review an athleteâs HRV data, the first thing I look at is a timeline chart that shows their HRV, resting HR, and how any training variable changes over time. The example chart below shows both daily values and the underlying 7 day rolling average trend.

This period of HRV data, from a 50-year-old lifelong sports enthusiast, shows a number of desirable aspects:

  • His HRV is high for his age .
  • He has a low resting heart rate .
  • There is relatively little daily variation in HRV or HR with daily training which shows good resilience.
  • Thereâs a slowly widening gap between HRV and HR, showing a fitness improvement.
  • Overall, this shows a healthy, resilient athlete whoâs reaping the benefits of his training. Looking at these trends over time is far more informative than simply considering an HRV number on any given day.

    On the other hand, data from this competitive cyclist shows some less desirable characteristics:

  • He has a relatively lower HRV baseline and higher resting HR .
  • There are frequent dips in HRV after more intense training days (taller black bars.
  • Thereâs a narrowing gap between HRV and HR with signs of sickness .
  • The high variation of daily readings is often a cause for concern, suggesting that only marginal changes in total load cause a significant impact on the individual.
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    Practical Applications For Utilizing Hrv

    Firstbeat has developed ways of utilizing HRV in real-life conditions. The HRV data is turned into valuable and understandable feedback that helps to perform better, make correct training and coaching decisions, and improve wellbeing and health. Firstbeat Lifestyle Assessment is a professional-grade stress and recovery monitoring tool for wellness coaching. Firstbeat Sports is a complete solution to optimize training load and recovery for sports teams. Firstbeat is also trusted by top brands in wearable markets to help you make the best possible health, fitness and performance decisions.

    Want to know more about the science behind Firstbeats technology across all our specialist areas?

    How Does Hrv Stress & Recovery Analysis Work

    The ithlete application requires a simple one minute test first thing every every morning, whilst you wear a regular heart rate monitor chest strap or finger sensor. During the test you breathe deeply and relax, so that you minimise the effect of external stressors on the HRV index and focus on what your body is telling you about the impact of your training. After you have performed the test for a few mornings , you will start to see daily variations around an average . Once your normal value has been established, the Daily Change indication will give you a recommendation for todays training intensity depending on the difference from your previous measurements.

    People use the device in different ways some like to do their measurement immediately on getting out of bed, whilst some prefer to wake up a little first . Some get familiar with their normal value range as a number and judge the impact of their training from that, whilst others like to look for patterns on the chart. The Weekly & Monthly Change indicators also help you see the trends during periods of intensive training, when you can expect to see sustained decreases, or tapering before an event, when you should see a very healthy increase.

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    Heart Rate Variability Training: Regularly Engage In Stress Management Techniques

    Essentially, you train your heart through regular practice to have a conversation with your mind, and ultimately alleviate stress. Over time, you can learn to generate a relaxation response that calms and balances the ANS. Focus mostly on physical activities that involve conscious breathing, such as Tai chi, yoga, Pilates, relaxation, meditation, and imagery sessions and do these several times a week. Im a huge fan of yogic pranayama breathing, and believe its one of the best ways to improve HRV.

    Science backs me up on the importance of these activities. In a study conducted in India and published in 2015, researchers assessed the effect of yoga or swimming on HRV in 100 normal healthy young volunteers. They were divided into two groups: those who did yoga and those who swam. Heart rate variability was checked before the study, and afterwards. At the end of the 12-week experimental period, the volunteers who practiced yoga saw improvements in their HRV, compared to the swimmers, who did not. The researchers did not speculate as to why, but I feel that it had to do with the breathing, and its relaxing effect on the autonomic nervous system, that is so important in yoga. When you are in a yoga twist or stretch especially if its uncomfortable breathing through it will ease discomfort, while also improving HRV. I personally feel that alternate nostril breathing is the easiest way to improve your own heart rate variability.

    Understanding Normal Heart Rate Variability

    How I monitor heart rate variability

    Heart rate variability , which is regulated by your autonomic nervous system, is very useful for evaluating physical fitness and your bodys readiness to perform. Measured in milliseconds , HRV is literally the difference in time between beats of your heart.

    If heart rate variability is something youre not already familiar with, check out our Ultimate Guide to HRV to better understand what it is and why its so meaningful.

    Broadly speaking, higher HRV is usually an indication of better fitness. However, one of the most important things to realize with heart rate variability is that it is an extremely individualized metric that often differs significantly from one person to another. It can also fluctuate considerably on a day-to-day basis .

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