Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measure of the fluctuation in intervals of time between consecutive heartbeats, as determined by electrical signals from the heart. It is calculated by analysing the variations in the time between beats and is usually measured in milliseconds. The amount of time that elapses between two consecutive beats is known as an RR interval. In general, a higher HRV indicates better overall cardiovascular health, while a lower HRV could be indicative of illness or stress.
HRV is influenced by the activity of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the heart rate. HRV has been shown to be a useful indicator of overall heart health and can provide insight into the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Low Heart Rate Variability is associated with increased risk of heart health or cardiovascular disease and mortality, while high HRV is associated with better heart health and overall well-being.
Your Autonomic Nervous System regulates the heart function. Autonomic nervous system (ANS) is divided into 2 main parts: your Sympathetic Nervous System and your Parasympathetic Nervous System. The overall ANS activity on the heart is the net balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic activity.
Sympathetic system – The Sympathetic nervous system, or your “fight-or-flight” response, is activated in emergency situations. When the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated, it increases one’s heart rate and blood pressure, and lowers HRV.
Parasympathetic system – Parasympathetic nervous system, or “rest or digest“ mode, is the relaxation response. This helps balance the sympathetic nervous system after the “flight or fight response” has been activated. It slows down the heart rate and lowers the blood pressure, while increasing HRV.
It’s important to note that HRV should not be used as a sole indicator of heart health, and should be considered in conjunction with other markers and clinical examinations. Consult with your doctor if you have any concerns about your heart health.
HRV is typically measured by an electrocardiogram (ECG). The most commonly used method for measuring HRV is to calculate the standard deviation of the normal-to-normal (NN) intervals, which are the intervals between consecutive R-peaks (the peak of the QRS complex) in the ECG. Another commonly used method is to calculate the root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD) of the NN intervals.
Outside the medical setting, HRV can be measured using fitness tracker devices or chest strap heart monitors like the Frontier X2. Devices like these track your pulse over time and calculate the variations between each beat in order to determine an average HRV score for you. The higher the score, the healthier your cardiovascular system is.
A study in 2017 (ref. link) revealed that chest strap based fitness trackers often produce more accurate results than the smartwatches. Therefore, outside of hospital settings, chest strap devices are the preferred method of measuring heart rate and HRV. Click here to find out more about the Frontier X2 smart heart monitor that will help you track your heart health effectively.
There is some evidence that HRV can be improved through various interventions.
These are the lifestyle habits to improve HRV :
HRV is an important indicator of the health of the autonomic nervous system, and is thought to reflect the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of this system. Low HRV has been associated with several health risks, such as an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. It has also been linked to an increased risk of death in both healthy individuals and those with cardiovascular disease. In contrast, high HRV has been associated with better cardiovascular health and a lower risk of death. Factors that can affect HRV include stress, physical activity, sleep, medications, and mental health.
Get access to HRV data as well as many other significant heart health related metrics by using a smart heart monitor like the Frontier X2.
HRV is an indicator of the overall health of the heart and cardiovascular system. A healthy HRV indicates a balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, which control heart rate and blood pressure. Low HRV may be an indication of stress or poor cardiovascular health.
HRV can be measured through various methods such as electrocardiography (ECG), heart rate monitors, and other wearable devices. ECG is the most accurate method, but it is also the most invasive. Heart rate monitors and wearable devices can also provide accurate HRV measurements but may not be as precise as ECG.
Outside the medical setting, you can measure HRV by chest strap heart monitors, fitness trackers, and other smart phone apps.
There are several ways to improve HRV, including regular physical activity, stress management, and healthy eating. It is also important to get enough sleep and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
HRV can be used as an indicator of heart disease risk. Low HRV has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions. However, HRV should not be used as the sole indicator of heart disease risk, and other factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and family history should also be taken into consideration.
There are several ways to improve HRV, including regular physical activity, stress management, and healthy eating. It is also important to get enough sleep and avoid smoking or excessive alcohol consumption.
Other Heart Health Topics To Explore:
Heart Rate While Running | Mental Stress Symptoms | Heart Attack Symptoms | Heart Palpitations Causes | Causes of Increased Heart Rate | Healthy Heart Tips | Running Heart Rate | Yoga for Heart Health | Silent heart attack | Cardio Exercise