Unlock The Power of HRV: Discovering the Hidden Gem to Your Health

You may have come across the term HRV, which stands for heart rate variability, particularly if you use wearable devices. However, understanding the true meaning of HRV and its potential to enhance health might still be unclear. In this blog post, we will explore the science behind HRV and provide you with actionable tips to improve your health and wellbeing.

Heart rate variability, HRV, is the physiological phenomenon of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. It is measured by the variation in the beat-to-beat interval which is regulated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and its two branches; the parasympathetic and sympathetic system. 

During relaxing activities, like meditation or sleep, HRV should increase, as the parasympathetic nervous system should dominate. During stress, HRV naturally decreases, as the sympathetic activity helps to keep the body alert. So when your heart is beating slower, HRV is typically higher, and lower when the heart starts to beat faster, for example during stress or exercise. 

The natural interplay between the two systems allows the heart to quickly respond to different situations and needs.

What Science Says:

1. Monitor Your HRV: Regularly tracking your HRV can provide insight into your body’s stress levels and overall health. Studies have shown that low HRV is associated with increased risk of heart disease and other health issues. [1][2]

2. Practice relaxation techniques: Chronic stress can lower HRV and increase the risk of health problems. Practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can help increase HRV and reduce stress levels. [3][4]

3. Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity has been shown to increase HRV and improve overall health. [5][6]

4. Prioritize sleep: Getting enough quality sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy HRV. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can lower HRV and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. [7][8]

5. Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Eating a healthy, balanced diet, limiting alcohol consumption, not smoking, and moving regularly have all been associated with higher HRV and improved health outcomes. [9][10]

Your turn! 

By following these 5 steps you can improve your overall health and wellbeing by monitoring your HRV to reduce stress and maintain a healthy lifestyle where you feel more rested and energized. Remember, making a new habit successful means starting small. Choose one habit that is easy to incorporate into your daily routine and then build from there. 

Further reading:

1. Shaffer, F., & Ginsberg, J. P. (2017). An overview of heart rate variability metrics and norms. Frontiers in public health, 5, 258. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2017.00258

2. Thayer, J. F., & Lane, R. D. (2009). Claude Bernard and the heart-brain connection: Further elaboration of a model of neurovisceral integration. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 33(2), 81-88. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2008.08.004

3. Pal, G. K., Velkumary, S., & Madanmohan. (2004). Effect of short-term practice of breathing exercises on autonomic functions in normal human volunteers. Indian Journal of Medical Research, 120(2), 115-121. PMID: 15347856

4. Li, X., Wang, R., Xing, X., Shi, X., Huang, T., & Ho, Y. C. (2021). Effects of Yoga on Heart Rate Variability: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(3), 1237. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18031237

5. Coote, J. H. (2010). Recovery of heart rate variability and its relation to exercise intensity after submaximal exercise. Cardiovascular Research, 87(1), 1-2. https://doi.org/10.1093/cvr/cvq027

6. Javorka, M., Zila, I., Balhárek, T., & Javorka, K.

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