Oftentimes we used the weight scales and our appearance as a basis to determine whether we’re losing weight or not. While these methods certainly do say something about you, it is not an effective basis to determine how healthy we are. There are far better scientific methods we can use to determine the status of our health. And one way of doing that is through measuring your Heart Rate Variability (HRV).
So, What Exactly is a Heart Rate Variability (HRV)?
Heart Rate Variability refers to variation or intervals between your heart beats. Our HRV also determines how healthy our Autonomic System is. For those who didn’t know, our ANS has two branches that are responsible for our main body functions. The two branches are:
- Sympathetic – it is the branch that is responsible for our fight or flight response. It is the one dominating our system whenever we’re stressed, or facing a dire situation that needs our utmost attention.
- Parasympathetic – It is responsible for our “feed and breed” or “rest and digests” response. Contrary to sympathetic, this branch promotes relaxation, digestion, sleep, and recovery.
Our ANS response changes constantly depending on the external and internal changes our body is currently undergoing. Though they have opposite functions, these two branches worked in tandem and harmony to promote a healthy balance for our body system to survive. We all know this state of balance as homeostasis.
How our HRV is Measured?
So, now that you have a knowledge about how our HRV works, you might be wondering how do we measure it? Well, let us explain that to you.
We can measure your HRV through rMSSD. rMSSD is a calculated index that captures your respiratory activity. When you’re inhaling, your HRV speeds up (a.k.a the sympathetic activity), while during exhalation, your HRV relaxes. The resting phase of respiration is also known as your parasympathetic activity.
So, when your rSSD is high, you’re usually relaxed, your breathing is even. And when it’s incredibly low, you’re most likely under stressed.
The Connection of HRV and Our Health
Now, this is the interesting part! We’re finally unveiling how heart rate variability can help us in determining our health status! In order to explain it in a simple way,
Let’s say you woke up in a fine, sunny, day. You don’t have any work nor appointments to do. Your most natural response would be to make a pot of coffee while reading a book or unwinding down. At this moment, you’re not feeling any stressed at all. You feel calm, relaxed, at peace.
And when you do, your heartbeat is even. The intervals of your HRV then is high. And if it’s high, it means you are healthy, since your body is functioning normally and it’s not overcoming with some life-threatening situations.
Compare that to when you woke up and you’re already jiggling up with your daily schedule. You come back and forth on several floors to attend meetings, your hands are typing furiously to submit that report. You’re rendering OT’s to finish that project deadline. And by the time you go back to your home, you’re already exhausted and upbeat.
When you’re rushing to do anything to meet a particular deadline or activity, our fight or flight (or sympathetic activity) is activated.
This is where we released a hormone called adrenaline to help us overcome the situation we’re currently facing. And because of this adrenaline rush, we often feel our heartbeat palpitating. Just like how we’re running out of breath after a long run. This short interval of heartbeats shows that we’re under stressed.
Which was good, since our body has a defense mechanism to help us survive in a dire situation. However, the problem lies when we’re stressed chronically (in which most of us are experiencing on a daily basis). The adrenaline hormone is only supposed to last for a few hours. If the stressful situation still continues to persist, your body will release another type of hormone called cortisol.
When our cortisol is activated, it pushes our body to a stressful state. This is where our body withholds our fat, This is where we’re starting to gain weight, our blood pressure increases. If this persists, we’re starting to develop cardiovascular disease as well as chronic illness.
In fact, the cardiac specialists are using HRV s a predictive indicator of your health, status, risk of having a heart attack or other cardiac events. Low HRV is often associated with coronary heart disease and multiple metabolic syndromes. While a high HRV is often associated with a healthy, heart longevity.
How to Balance Out Our HRV
Now that you know how our heart rate variability affects our life, it is important for us to know how to balance it out. Here are the activities you should enhance to promote a healthy and balanced HRV.
- Find your Metabolic Type Before we start customizing your own, personalized diet and exercise plan, it is important to get the information about your metabolic type first. Knowing your metabolic type personally will help you what foods works for your body best, what foods you should minimize on eating, what exercise works best for you, and what’s not. You can read here to find out more about metabolic typing.
- Monitor your HRV.
Since we’re already talking about HRV here, it’s going to be optimal to monitor your HRV. Your HRV will tell you if you’re active and when you’re not. We use this app when measuring our client’s HRV.
You already know the pattern. Our HRV falls down and our body pushed into a taxing situation whenever we’re stressed. So as much as possible, eliminate any kind of stress in your life. Be sure to get adequate sleep and rest. If you’re feeling under the weather, don’t push yourself. Don’t attend another gym session and instead, rest. Take a nap, unwind, or do anything that makes you calm and relaxed.
- Drink Green Tea
Green tea contains L-theanine, a calming property that increases your HRV. It has the ability to reduce your sympathetic nervous system activity.
- Work to Improve your Flow State
Did you know that by hacking the flow state, you’re also able to achieve a perfect balance of HRV? Not only you’re unleashing your full potential and peak performance, but it also making your autonomous nervous system healthy, too! You can learn more about hacking the flow state here.