What is HRV and Why is it Important For Improving Health?
Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measurement of the variation in time between each heartbeat. It is a non-invasive and easy-to-measure indicator of the health of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and has gained popularity as a tool for assessing overall health and wellness. In this blog post, we will explore what HRV is, how it is measured, and why it is important for improving health and wellness.
What is HRV?
HRV is the variation in time between consecutive heartbeats. A healthy heart is not a metronome, and the interval between each beat is not exactly the same. The variability in time between consecutive beats is called HRV. The variation in HRV is controlled by the ANS, which regulates involuntary functions such as heart rate, breathing rate, digestion, and stress response.
How is HRV measured?
HRV can be measured using electrocardiogram (ECG) or photoplethysmography (PPG). ECG is the gold standard for HRV measurement and requires attaching electrodes to the skin. PPG is a less invasive method that uses a light sensor to measure changes in blood volume in the fingertip.
HRV is measured by calculating the time difference between consecutive heartbeats, known as the R-R interval. HRV is measured as the standard deviation of the R-R intervals over a period of time, usually five minutes. HRV is measured in milliseconds (ms).
What are the challenges with measuring HRV?
Measuring HRV with precision is largely only possible through physical devices in the hospital which of course are expensive and highly inaccessible. However, in recent years, it has been possible for regular consumers to measure their HRV though popular wearable devices such as the Apple Watch, Oura Ring and the Whoop device. Whilst these are more accessible than expensive hospital equipment, they still come with a hefty price tag of $200 per device on average plus a monthly subscription. The question then is, is there an even more accessible & cost-effective way to measure HRV? At Vastmindz, our wellness platform, Visix, requires no physical device to be able to accurately measure HRV. It uses innovative vision technology to be able to measure biometrics from a regular camera. Visix is currently offered as a wellness platform to employers who can instantly deploy a health & wellness solution at scale without a dependency on physical devices.
Why is HRV important for improving health and wellness?
HRV is a marker of ANS function and has been linked to various aspects of health and wellness, including cardiovascular health, emotional regulation, and stress resilience. Higher HRV indicates a more adaptable and resilient ANS, while lower HRV indicates a less adaptable and more stressed ANS.
Improving HRV has been associated with a variety of health benefits. For example, increased HRV has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, better sleep quality, improved athletic performance, and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression.
How can you improve HRV?
There are several lifestyle changes that can help improve HRV, including:
- Exercise regularly: Regular exercise has been shown to increase HRV.
- Practice deep breathing: Deep breathing exercises can help improve HRV by increasing parasympathetic activity.
- Get enough sleep: Sleep deprivation has been linked to lower HRV, so getting enough sleep is crucial for maintaining healthy HRV.
- Manage stress: Chronic stress has been linked to lower HRV, so finding ways to manage stress, such as meditation, yoga, or mindfulness practices, can help improve HRV.
In conclusion, HRV is a valuable tool for assessing overall health and wellness. By measuring HRV, we can gain insight into the function of the ANS and take steps to improve our health and well-being. Making lifestyle changes that support healthy HRV, such as regular exercise, deep breathing, getting enough sleep, and managing stress, can lead to a wide range of health benefits.