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Heart Rate Variability - What Can It Tell Us About Our Body?

Many people these days are becoming more and more aware of their health and bodies and are taking steps to improve them.

This is important because the pandemic is still going strong because of the COVID-19 virus, which weakens the immune system.

Because of this, people need to improve their health and get fit more than ever.

Heart rate variability (HRV) is an important part of this fitness.

People in the fitness and health world are starting to use the word more and more in everyday conversations and even in articles and websites on the internet.

You may have heard people talk about HRV a few times and wonder what it is and why it is important.

You must know what HRV is and how keeping track of it can make a big difference in your life.

Many people still don't understand what HRV is, but don't worry if you're one of them. We've got you covered.

What Is Heart Rate Variability?

"Heart rate variability" refers to the natural, but not very important, differences in how long it takes for each heartbeat to happen. These movements only change the length of each pulse by a few hundredths of a second, either in a good or bad way.

If you don't have the right tools, you won't be able to notice these changes in the environment. Heart rate variability is quite frequent in otherwise healthy people, but it can also be an early indicator of cardiovascular disease or mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression in some cases.

How Does Heart Rate Variability Work?

Your heart has a steady rhythm that keeps it functioning properly. That rate varies with your current activity. Heart rates are lowest when people are resting or feeling calm, and they are highest when people are working out, feeling stressed, or feel like they are in danger.

Your heart rate changes in response to what your body needs and as your breathing patterns change. The variability of your heart rate can also be influenced by the use of certain medications and medical devices, such as pacemakers. Similarly, your heart rate variability will normally decrease with age.

Your heart needs to be able to respond to changes in your life and surroundings, whether you are awake or asleep, relaxed or anxious. However, it can't determine when an action is needed, so it depends on some other mechanism in the body.

The Nervous System And HRV

Another fact that may come as a surprise is that HRV is not derived from monitoring your heart rate or examining your cardiac output. On the contrary, it originates in the nervous system, specifically the autonomic nervous system.

The autonomic nervous system regulates the parts of your body that operate automatically, without your conscious participation. Both the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems contribute to these processes.

The parasympathetic and sympathetic branches of the nervous system are different from one another in every way. When your heart rate decreases, a different type of the nervous system is activated, and this one is the one you want to use for things like sleeping and digesting food. By increasing your rate of variability, this system helps you return to a state of homeostasis after experiencing stress.

In contrast, the sympathetic nervous system is triggered in times of crisis, stress, or physical exertion, such as during exercise, when under extreme stress, or in the event of an accident. Boosting your heart rate and blood pressure, this part of the nervous system is in charge of getting as many of your organs working as possible.

Both the increased production of stress hormones and the accelerated heart rate are direct results of the activation of the sympathetic nervous system. Because of this, HRV naturally declines. In a normal and healthy life, the two branches of the nervous system work together in harmony, but when one side becomes dominant, it can lead to serious health problems.

Why Is Heart Rate Variability A Good Thing?

Numerous bodily structures and functions allow your body to modify its environment and activities accordingly. The adaptability of your body is reflected by the variability of your heart rate.

The ability to adjust to new situations is shown in a heart rate that fluctuates widely. High-HRV individuals tend to be less stressed and more content with life.

Low heart rate variability is sometimes seen as an indicator of existing or impending health issues because it indicates that your body is less adaptable and struggles to adapt to new settings. People with higher resting heart rates are also more likely to develop this condition.

Since there is less time in between heartbeats when the heart is pounding quicker, there is less room for variation. It is common for diseases like diabetes, hypertension, heart arrhythmia, asthma, anxiety, and depression to manifest in this way.

How Is Heart Rate Variability Measured?

It takes sophisticated machinery or technology to pick up on the subtleties in your heart rate. Modern technology has reached a point where non-medical gadgets that can track heart rate variability are affordable and easy to find.

Electrocardiogram machines, generally known as EKGs, are commonly used in healthcare settings to monitor heart rate variability. This device's ability to accurately assess heart electrical activity using sensors adhered to the skin of the chest is impressive.

Patients can be given a heart rate variability monitor to use at home for a long time, in addition to being monitored in the clinic. From a few minutes up to 24 hours, your HRV can be tracked. Generally speaking, the best data can be gleaned through longer periods of observation.

Outside of a medical setting, athletes, especially runners, use a lot of different tools. Such items typically feature a band that encircles the wearer's chest and a device that is affixed to the band.

Some look like pulse oximeters, but they are more sensitive and accurate in reading your heart rate and blood oxygen levels. Most activity monitors and trackers that are worn on the wrist do so by measuring electrical activity in the blood vessels. However, this typically means that they are not sensitive enough to detect alterations in heart rate.

The heart with the isoelectric line in white beside it
The heart with the isoelectric line in white beside it

What HRV Tells Us About Our Body

If a person is leading a healthy lifestyle, their heart rate variability should be rather high under most conditions. This suggests that the person is making an effort to wind down. On the other hand, it is not healthy to live a life with little change to meet the body's growing needs.

Low HRV is normal when exercising or doing other physical activities, but having low HRV all the time is a sign of a stressful lifestyle that needs to be changed right away.

The problem is that this rate of variability changes over time and is notoriously hard to predict. Many are left wondering what constitutes healthy heart rate variability and how such a variable might be improved without causing any major complications. That's why some people workout specifically to increase their heart rate variability, and why others use special monitors to keep tabs on how much their rate varies.

By doing so, they are able to keep a steady eye on their rate of variation. If a series of events upset the balance between your body's different rates, it can make you feel stressed and overloaded.

The Importance Of Knowing Our HRV

Understanding the variability of one's heart rate has become increasingly important in modern times. Monitoring the daily variability rate can provide you with a wealth of information regarding your way of life as well as suggestions regarding how you might make it more satisfying.

The information that an HRV monitor gathers about a person and then sends back to that person's body can have a big positive effect on many parts of that person's life, such as their health, their finances, and their performance.

Once you have a strong grasp on your variability rate, you will be able to discover a great deal about your eating and sleeping patterns, as well as your levels of stress, mental health, illness symptoms, and risk factors. Monitoring your HRV is something that, after everything is said and done, can do nothing but benefit your overall health.

People Also Ask

What Is A Good Heart Rate Variability?

The optimal HRV score varies from person to person. High sensitivity indices, such as heart rate variability, react differently in different people. Numbers below 50 ms are considered unhealthy, numbers between 50 and 100 ms show that health is slightly not good, and numbers above 100 ms are healthy.

Why Is My Heart Rate Variability So Low?

If your heart rate variability is low, it could be because your fight-or-flight response is overriding any other physiological processes at work. Stress and lack of sleep are two potential precipitating factors.

What Is A Dangerously Low HRV?

A consistent baseline score of 70 or higher is connected with health; values between 50 and 70 are related to diseases and compromised health; and a persistent baseline HRV score of 50 or less increases the risk of severe illness and even death.

Does Anxiety Affect Heart Rate Variability?

Research with a small to moderate effect size shows a link between a low HRV and anxiety disorders. The results show how important it is to reduce cardiovascular risk as a whole, and they will have big effects on the health and well-being of patients in the future.

Conclusion

An irregular heart rate variability is not always life-threatening, but it may be indicative of existing conditions or potential future concerns. Also, keep in mind that most instruments aimed at the general public for monitoring heart rate variability are not as accurate as an electrocardiogram.

Remember that your heartbeat is a very intricate system. Your healthcare professional is the best person to examine your heart rate and advise you on what to do about it, though there are gadgets and applications that can track your heart rate variability.

About The Authors

Suleman Shah

Suleman Shah - Suleman Shah is a researcher and freelance writer. As a researcher, he has worked with MNS University of Agriculture, Multan (Pakistan) and Texas A & M University (USA). He regularly writes science articles and blogs for science news website immersse.com and open access publishers OA Publishing London and Scientific Times. He loves to keep himself updated on scientific developments and convert these developments into everyday language to update the readers about the developments in the scientific era. His primary research focus is Plant sciences, and he contributed to this field by publishing his research in scientific journals and presenting his work at many Conferences. Shah graduated from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (Pakistan) and started his professional carrier with Jaffer Agro Services and later with the Agriculture Department of the Government of Pakistan. His research interest compelled and attracted him to proceed with his carrier in Plant sciences research. So, he started his Ph.D. in Soil Science at MNS University of Agriculture Multan (Pakistan). Later, he started working as a visiting scholar with Texas A&M University (USA). Shah’s experience with big Open Excess publishers like Springers, Frontiers, MDPI, etc., testified to his belief in Open Access as a barrier-removing mechanism between researchers and the readers of their research. Shah believes that Open Access is revolutionizing the publication process and benefitting research in all fields.

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