Heart Rate Variability can help us monitor the impact of our lifestyle on our health.
What is Heart Rate Variability?
Simply put, Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a measure of the variation in time between each heartbeat. HRV measures the specific changes in time (or variability) between successive heartbeats. The time between beats is measured in milliseconds (ms) and is called an R-R interval or inter-beat interval (IBI). Our heart does not tick evenly like a metronome, but instead, there is constant variation. In a normal, healthy situation, HRV is typically high when the heart is beating slowly, and low when the heart is beating faster. HRV is influenced by our respiration, exercise, stress, recovery, and other factors like our hormonal reactions, metabolic processes, and cognitive processes.
Why Does Heart Rate Variability Matter?
The HRV level changes naturally from day to day, based on the level of activity and amount of work-related stress. If we are chronically stressed physically or mentally, the natural interplay between the two systems of our Autonomous Nervous System (Sympathetic & Parasympathetic) gets disrupted. When this happens, our body can get stuck with low HRV and high-stress hormone levels, even when we are resting. This is very taxing on the body and can result in various physical and mental health problems like hypertension and heart disease.
Why use Heart Rate Variability to track our well-being?
High HRV is generally considered an indicator of a healthy well-being. Higher HRV has also been found in many studies to be associated with reduced health complications, improved psychological well-being, and enhanced quality of life.
Our lifestyle has a powerful effect on HRV. To see improvements in our HRV, we can take active steps to manage our habits, be physically active and strive for a better balance in our lives.
Our HRV and well-being have such a strong correlation, and in many cases an early indicator. Tracking our HRV can help us stay ahead of illnesses and make better lifestyle decisions for a healthier, active life.
Future blogs in this series will broaden the topic to practical applications and the relationship of HRV with stress and recovery.