Heart Rate Variability

What is Heart Rate Variability?

Heart rate variability (HRV) indicates the beat to beat change in the heart rate. For example, the time between one beat and the next may be 1 second; the time from the 2nd beat to the 3rd may be .6 seconds. The variation in time from one beat to the next is called HRV. Two people can have the same heart rate (e.g., 70 beats per minute). However, one person can have a low HRV. Low HRV is linked to depression, poor health outcomes, cardiac symptoms, high stress levels, and predictive of a shorter lifespan. Another person may have a high HRV. More HRV means the heart is better able to adapt to changing circumstances.  It is linked with better physical and emotional health overall and has been shown to reduce risk for stress-related illness, such as cardiac problems and asthma. HRV is affected by your thoughts, emotions and environment.

It is believed that HRV will become as common as pulse, blood pressure or temperature in patient charts in the near future. In the past ten years more than 2000 published articles have been written about HRV. HRV has been used as a screening tool in many disease processes. Various medical disciplines are looking at HRV. In heart disease it has been proven to be predictive of the likelihood of future events.

What are the benefits of increased Heart Rate Variability?

Studies have shown that training HRV can improve cognitive abilities and mental clarity, greater emotional balance, enhanced creativity, a sense of peace, and greater personal effectiveness. Other health benefits include reduction of anxiety, enhanced immune system functioning and decrease effects of aging, and a lowered stress response. These all amount to better physical functioning and better emotional regulation of your system.

How does it work?

HRV training involves using computerized feedback of your heart rhythms as measured by a small sensor that registers pulse. Your heart rhythm is analyzed and projected onto a computer screen through biofeedback. On the screen you watch and hear your heart as it moves through various patterns. You quickly discover how your thoughts, images, breathing patterns, body tension and even your words to yourself affect your heart’s rhythm. Through practice you learn to affect and create the rhythms you desire.

Specific conditions that may benefit from Heart Rate Variability training:

  • High blood pressure
  • Generalized stress response
  • Cardiac risk after heart attack
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Depression
  • Stress-related headaches
  • Improve peak performance states