Five ways to improve heart rate variability

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Published: Mon 13 Feb 2023, 3:28 PM

Last updated: Mon 13 Feb 2023, 3:31 PM

Have you been tracking your heart rate variability (HRV), and are you now looking to improve it? Or have you not heard of HRV and just want to understand it better? This article explains what heart rate variability is. What affects it? How to monitor it and five effective ways to improve HRV.

By Namrata Thakkar

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What is heart rate variability (HRV)?

The number of heartbeats per minute is known as the heart rate, and a measure of the fluctuation in the time intervals between each heartbeat is called HRV.

For example, if you had a heart rate monitor on and it said 70 beats per minute, it's highly unlikely that every beat occurs at the same interval. There are going to be slight variations between each heartbeat; this is called HRV.

Our autonomic nervous system (ANS) regulates HRV. The measurements of HRV indicate the activity of the ANS and whether it is functioning optimally. The ANS acts unconsciously and is responsible for regulating various body functions such as heart rate, breathing, digestion, and blood pressure.

ANS has two branches. One is called the parasympathetic nervous system, more commonly known as 'rest-and-digest', which processes inputs from internal organs or functions, such as digestion or fingernail and hair growth. It is responsible for a decrease in heart rate.

The other branch is the sympathetic nervous system, more commonly known as our 'fight-or-flight', which increases your heart rate and blood pressure in response to factors like stress, exercise, and other stimuli.

These two branches keep working synergistically and accurately to properly maintain the body’s functions.

What affects HRV?

One of the essential things to understand is that HRV is affected by both positive and negative situations. There are a lot of factors that can influence HRV. A few of them are:

Age: As you get older, HRV tends to decrease naturally.

Gender: Women have a slightly lower HRV than men.

Chronic disorders: Chronic health conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, etc., are associated with reduced HRV.

Physical activity: Increased physical activity increases HRV.

Lifestyle factors: An improper/unhealthy diet, a lack of sleep, alcohol consumption, tobacco use, and increased mental stress can all lead to low HRV.

External factors: Weather changes, noise exposure, and induced pain can cause low HRV.

It is important to understand that both positive and negative factors are not necessarily an issue. They become an issue only if they persist for a long time.

How to monitor HRV?

The variations in heart rate are so small that it requires specialised equipment or devices to detect them.

Well, the gold standard to measure HRV is with an electrocardiogram machine, wherein electrodes (sensors that track the electrical activity of your heart) are attached to the skin of your chest to measure HRV. It gives highly accurate results. The only problem is that these devices are only available in a medical setting.

However, modern technology has become so advanced that nonmedical gadgets that can detect HRV are widely available now. A chest strap monitor is commonly used, which consists of a device attached to a band that wraps around your chest.

There are also wrist-worn fitness devices and trackers that can detect your heart rate through your skin. Unfortunately, there is still an issue with the accuracy and reliability of the data.

What is a good HRV number?

HRV varies from person to person. The number might change dramatically during the day based on your stress levels, hydration, sleeping pattern, and changes in emotions and activities. It will not only keep changing throughout the day but also from one day to the next.

Thus, HRV is difficult to interpret. As discussed, it is influenced by age, gender, and many other factors. So, what is normal for one person may not be normal for another. If you want to understand your HRV and what you should do about it, consult your doctor.

However, a high HRV number is considered good, and a low HRV is often seen as a symptom of present or future health concerns.

How can we improve HRV?

The goal of improving HRV does not mean getting a higher number than your friends. It simply means getting rid of things that are unnecessarily stressing your body. There are several things you can do in your daily life that can significantly improve HRV.

Here are five ways that may help improve your HRV:

1. Exercise and train properly: Research shows that regular exercise is one of the most effective methods for increasing your HRV. However, it is important to balance your exercises and follow a training plan. Avoid overtraining and putting too much strain on your body without giving it enough time to recover.

For post-workout recovery, you can use pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMF) therapy. It is a non-invasive electrotherapy that emits low frequencies of electromagnetic waves to reduce pain and inflammation. This type of therapy has been used in various medical disciplines for over 100 years, and recent advances have made it more effective than ever.

PEMF therapy helps support the body on a cellular level and can be beneficial for helping with injury recovery, stress relief, fatigue, and various other conditions. The waves also stimulate organs and heal damaged tissues and bones. The pulses produced by the PEMF machine create a mild electrical current that passes through the skin and penetrates deep into muscles, bones, tendons, and even organs to activate the energy of the cells and encourage their natural repair mechanisms.

According to research, 20 minutes of exposure to PEMF led to a faster recovery of HRV after strenuous workouts.

Effects of PEMF on HRV and cardiovascular health

PEMF has been used as a potential method for enhancing cardiovascular health. It has been proven to enhance circulation, oxygenation, and nutrient absorption. The therapy may aid in the reduction of arterial stiffness, the reduction of resting heart rate, and the improvement of overall HRV.

Furthermore, PEMF therapy has been associated with the prevention and treatment of hypertension, coronary artery disease, and other types of cardiovascular conditions. This is because PEMF helps relax blood vessels and enhance blood flow.

Overall, there is growing evidence to support the use of PEMF therapy in cardiovascular health. Magnetic waves not only benefit your heart health but can also be used in other areas of your life and maybe specifically adapted for your health and wellness needs, enabling a wide range of applications for the preservation of your well-being and health.

Other health benefits of PEMF include the following:

● Aids in stress management

● Maximises mental focus and productivity

● Improves joint flexibility and function

● Increases energy, vitality, and strength

● Improves immune system function

● Activates cellular metabolism and repair

● Aids relaxation and detoxification

Learn more about PEMF therapy.

2. Get consistent quality sleep: Getting proper sleep is a good start, but it's also crucial to make an effort to sleep and get up at regular times each day. Consistent sleep will improve your HRV by assisting in the maintenance of your circadian rhythm.

3. Practice breathing exercises: According to a study, slow and controlled breathing for just six minutes a day has a positive effect on your HRV. It is a great way to strengthen your parasympathetic nervous system. It can also be used to reduce stress, anxiety, and pain.

4. Consume healthy foods at the right times: While eating right is not just a smart and healthy choice, it is also beneficial to your HRV. It is also important to eat at regular times, as sticking to a healthy diet helps your circadian rhythm.

5. Stay hydrated: Dehydration makes your heart work harder to pump blood throughout your body. The nervous system is also affected by dehydration. This may result in a decrease in HRV, poor mood, increased anxiety and decreased brain functioning. Hence, remember to drink at least two litres of water every day to keep your body hydrated.

Takeaway

● Understanding and monitoring your HRV allows you to assess how your nervous system is responding to various conditions, allowing you to stay on top of your overall health.

● HRV is specific to everyone; always compare your average HRV and avoid making comparisons with others.

Namrata Thakkar is a CMO of the Kingdom Corp.


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