This World Heart Day, learn about a heart metric that indicates your body’s recovery from exercise and stress

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Heart Rate Variability, or HRV – a metric that you can track using advanced wearable device, can tell you more about how your body is handling physical strain and stress. Keep reading to find out how – and why it’s so important.

By Prateek Kewalramani

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Published: Thu 29 Sep 2022, 12:02 PM

Eating healthy and exercising moderately can be a great start towards achieving your desired fitness level plus health goals and keeping cardiovascular diseases at bay. To complement a balanced routine, it’s important to also track other health metrics like sleep patterns and heart related indicators. This is where wearables like Fitbit come into play, that allows you to track basic indicators like 24/7 heart rate and advanced metrics like Heart Rate Variability. Monitoring Heart Rate Variability aka HRV over time can be an awakening journey. From indicating how one’s body is handling physical strain to whether your body is showing potential signs of the onset of illness, it can give indicators about changes in your body that you might not discover elsewise.

In literal terms, Heart Rate Variability refers to the variance in time, down to milliseconds, between heartbeats, and it varies from person to person. Your age, gender, sleep, hormones and lifestyle choices can all affect HRV. In general, a higher average HRV is linked to greater overall health and fitness. Further, according to the Harvard Health blog, measuring it can tell you about your physical resilience and ability to perform at high levels i.e., how readily your body can transition from rest to activity and back. A significant drop in your HRV can have many causes, including a poor night’s sleep, physical strain, diet, or being emotionally or physically stressed. Advanced wearables that track HRV, often show trends in a dedicated health metrics section in the companion mobile app where you can find your personal range. Going a step further, below are some recommendations that can help you avoid a dip in your HRV or even boost it through lifestyle changes.

Eating a diet filled with omega-3 fatty acids: Selected vegetarian and seafood based diets that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are usually recommended as omega-3 boosts HRV by regulating heart rhythms. Another good example of a diet that could benefit your HRV is a diet that’s low in sodium and saturated fat.

Staying hydrated: Hot weather, workout, or simply insufficient fluid intake are some common causes of dehydration, which inturn puts an extra pressure on your heart to work harder to pump blood throughout your body. It’s always a good idea to keep a refillable bottle of water with you always and track your water intake.

Meditating: Stress generally lowers down HRV, however if it persists for longer durations, it can cause our central nervous system to go into a ‘fight-or-flight’ mode, severely affecting our HRV. On the flip side, through Meditation we can focus on positive thoughts, control our breathing and practice slow movement, which could then help in re-adjusting our HRV and bring it back up.

Maintaining a healthy body weight: When your weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) increases, fasting blood glucose levels also tend to rise and which inturn lowers down HRV. By maintaining a healthy weight, you can not only keep blood glucose in a healthy range but also protect HRV in the process.

The recently announced next generation of Fitbit wearables like Inspire 3, Versa 4 and Sense 2 can provide you with health and wellness information along with up to 10 days of battery life, so that you don’t have to charge them every day. By having access to information about your body that otherwise wouldn’t be top of mind — like your HRV, resting heart rate, oxygen saturation (SpO2), sleep trends and body’s responses to stressors — you can better understand how to manage your holistic health. It’s generally recommended to check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine; and not to use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition.

Avoiding or beating cardiovascular disease is something that matters to every human being. Each year, World Heart Day is just a reminder and an opportunity for everyone to think about cardiovascular health and to track it regularly.

— Prateek Kewalramani, Head of Marketing, Fitbit - MEA at Google

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