Everyone in the world is exposed to stress daily and helping our bodies handle it is extremely important. Your autonomic nervous system takes care of many behind-the-scenes processes like digestion, respiratory rate, and heart rate. The autonomic nervous system contains the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, these systems control your rest and digest and flight or fight responses, respectively. Monitoring and trying to control heart rate is a great way to help calm your body and mitigate stress.
What is HRV
Heart rate variability ( HRV) is when the time between heartbeats fluctuates slightly. There is only a fraction of a second between beats, either adding or subtracting time. Unless you have a specialized device, these fluctuations are virtually undetectable. Heart rate variability can be present in healthy individuals, but it can also be a marker of health problems like anxiety, depression, or heart conditions.
In general, the heart beats at a specific rate at all times. Depending on what you're doing, the rate can change. When you're relaxed and resting, the heart rate is generally lower, but if you're stressed, being active, or in danger, the faster the heart rate becomes. Based on the body's needs and respiratory patterns, there will be variability in the heart rate. As you age, heart rate variability tends to decrease normally. Your heart has to be able to react to changes in your environment, whether you're calm or stressed, awake or asleep. It relies on the autonomic nervous system to assist it.
What is Low HRV
Some people may have what is considered a low HRV. In numerous studies, a low heart rate variability has been confirmed to be a strong predictor of future health problems. A reduced HRV has been present in basically every illness that humans suffer from. It is also a predictor of emotional and physical diseases. It can reflect an individual's capacity to adapt to environmental and social stressors effectively. Everyone should be aware of their own personal HRV and what affects it.
The heart beats around 100,000 times per day. Heart rate variability (HRV) refers specifically to the variability between successive heartbeats. For example, if a person has a heart rate of 60 beats per minute, the interval between beats would be one second, but some intervals may be 0.8 seconds and some 1.2 seconds. The vagus nerve significantly impacts HRV, and the vagus nerve is linked to the autonomic nervous system. When a person is relaxed, they have a low heart rate due to their increased vagal tone. When they are calm and relaxed, breathing is generally slow and deep. When excited, the intervals between beats are shortened, and the heart rate goes up while breathing generally shortens as well. Physical, emotional, and financial stress can all cause the heart rate to increase. In turn, the faster heart rate means the time between heartbeats is small, resulting in a low HRV.
Should I Worry About Low HRV?
Since a low HRV can indicate poor future health, it can be a good idea to know what your heart rate variability is. By keeping an eye on your HRV, you can get clues about your overall health. When there are fluctuations in the parasympathetic (vagus) nerve activity, there are generally major HRV, especially under resting conditions. The sympathetic nerves have less of an effect than the parasympathetic nerves. At lower breathing rates and deeper breaths, the magnitude of heart rate changes are increased. Deep, slow breathing can increase HRV and increase parasympathetic activity.
Low HRV can absolutely be a cause for concern, but the good news is that there is a lot that you can do to help improve your heart rate variability. In general, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help improve your heart health and positively impact HRV. Practicing mindfulness and using those kinds of tools to help take care of your mind can also impact your overall health. By reducing your stress level through breathing techniques, meditation, or yoga, you can help get your body into a parasympathetic or rest and digest phase. Another method that's gained popularity in the last few years is a practice called biofeedback training, where you use a program to control your breathing and reduce stress and anxiety.
What is Too Low For HRV?
Now that we are aware of the dangers of having a low HRV, discovering what is too low HRV can help ensure your HRV is in an optimal area. There is a scale of 0 to 100 that HRV is reported on. This allows people to be able to track their HRV levels pretty easily. As HRV is being measured, it's normal to see it jump around from one minute to the next. For example, it could be 52 one second, the next 70, then 54. An average over a certain period of time is obtained and then the average is discovered. A baseline score of at least 70 has been linked with good health. Levels between 50 and 70 have shown to be linked with compromised health and diseases, and a level below 50 puts the person at a high risk for catastrophic illnesses and even death. It's a good idea to get an HRV of at least 70 to have optimal health.
Why is My HRV So Low When I Sleep?
Some people are curious about the link between sleep and HRV. There are three main phases of sleep: light, REM, and deep sleep. In order to get to deep sleep, you first must go through the light stages of sleep. Light sleep actually makes up the majority of the sleep cycle, with around 50-60% of your night being spent in light sleep. During deep sleep, your heart rate and breathing slow down and the whole body relaxes. This is the phase where the body spends time detoxifying and regenerating cells. Most healthy adults spend around 25% of their night in deep sleep. REM sleep generally occurs in the final parts of your sleep cycle and has a large impact emotionally and cognitively. Approximately 25% of the night's sleep is spent in the REM cycle.
While you're sleeping, your heart rate should stay relatively low, as sleep is a restorative process. During sleep, your heart rate should drop to the low end of your normal heart rate. If your heart rate doesn't decline during sleep, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor. Sometimes during REM sleep the heart rate will increase, but it shouldn't get out of your normal range.
What is a Healthy HRV Range?
A Healthy HRV range should be around 70 or higher. There are many factors that go into why a HRV is what it is, from genetics, age, gender, emotions, stress, sleep routine, and physical fitness. A nightly average HRV in comparison to your daily baseline can give clues as to how your autonomic nervous system is handling stress. How your HRV changes over a few months may be helpful in telling how stress is impacting your overall health. Heart rate variability has natural highs and lows, and it's not always as simple as saying a high number is good, but a low number is bad. There are so many different factors to be considered.
What Should My HRV Be?
The average HRV can vary depending on different components like age, stress levels, diet, and exercise. As people age, HRV can decrease abruptly; 20-25-year-olds usually have an average HRV in the 55-105 range, while 60-65-year-olds generally fall between 25-45. The value of what one's HRV should be is tough to say as it's an extremely sensitive metric. It can fluctuate greatly throughout the day, from one person to another, and even from one day to another. Figuring out your baseline HRV can be very helpful in discovering your unique health status.
Supplements May Help
Improving your HRV score may be more easily attained with an HRV capsule. When you can track your HRV at home, you can get a better idea of exactly how it fluctuates over specific periods of time. When you have a higher HRV, your body has a better resistance and response to stressful situations. Working on improving your HRV can positively impact your overall health and life!