Many people try to improve their health and wellness through physical exercise and balanced nutrition. Tracking your heart rate variability (HRV) is also a good way to improve your health because it helps you track and improve recovery after exercise. HRV can also be a predictor of good and bad health. If you’re already tracking your HRV, you may worry if it’s too low. In this article, we will explore what HRV is and how to improve your low rate.
What Is HRV?
Before we look at the differences between high and low HRV, we need to understand what HRV is and how it affects our health. Heart rate variability differs from your regular heart rate. While your heart rate is a measure of the number of beats per minute, HRV measures the natural fluctuation in time between your heart beats.
These fluctuations are very small and you can’t normally detect them on your. HRV naturally occurs in the body and has to do with the rate your heart beats. Each person has a different HRV, and the variability depends on individuals’ lifestyle, age and gender. HRV is an important metric used to evaluate recovery, daily physical readiness and has been shown to be a good measure of our overall health and performance capabilities.
How Does HRV Work?
The brain and the nervous system work together to send information throughout the body, including your heart. The two main branches of the autonomic nervous system, parasympathetic and sympathetic, work together to balance the body’s response to stress. When the body recognizes a stressful situation, it signals the sympathetic nervous system to have your body release adrenaline. During this time, your heart rate and blood pressure increase to handle the stress. Once the body slows down, the parasynthetic system restores balance by regulating your heart rate and slowing down the body for recovery.
What Affects HRV?
Your HRV patterns change based on what you are doing. When you’re engaging in physical activity, your HRV is faster. Sleeping or relaxing can produce a lower HRV. Some medication can alter your rate as well. Environmental factors, lifestyle changes, physiological factors, and chronic illness can all affect HRV. People with a higher HRV usually have better health than those with consistently low HRV.
Why would your HRV be low?
There are many reasons for a low heart rate variability. As we mentioned above, lifestyle, physiological, and environmental factors all influence HRV. Illness and disease also play a part in variability. Let’s explore these reasons further.
Lifestyle factors include diet, exercise, alcohol, tobacco use, and more. The choices we make each day affect our overall health and wellness. Diet and exercise play a huge role in our health and affect HRV. Getting enough sleep is also part of living a healthy lifestyle and will improve HRV. Poor sleep contributes to a lower rate and therefore reduces your quality of health.
Age, gender, family history, and others can also affect your HRV. If you have a family history of cardiovascular issues, you may notice lower HRV. If you struggle with a low HRV, look at these factors first before you worry about a low rate.
If you live in a constantly changing climate or a metropolitan area, you may notice a lower HRV. Climate change can induce physiological changes that lower HRV as the body regulates responses to change. Weather, outside noise, high stress environments can also lower your rate.
Illness and disease can have a big impact on HRV. Heart disease, lung disease, and even depression and anxiety have serious effects on your HRV. A low HRV may signal the body’s inability to fight off immune-reducing toxins.
Generally speaking, a low HRV happens in a resting or sleeping state. Chronically low HRV however may be a cause for concern. If you check your HRV during a resting state and it is low, this is normal. However, if you have a consistently low HRV most of the time, it’s important to explore the reasons.
How Do You Fix Low HRV?
Paying attention to your heart rate variability can improve your health and wellness. If you have a low HRV, there are ways you can fix it to boost your health and reduce the side effects of a low rate. Engaging in regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding alcohol are a few ways to improve your rate and your health. Let’s look at a few other ways.
Did you know the more liquid you have in your system, the better performance you will have? Since the body is approximately 60% water, drink more water than you think you need. Exercising, eating, and even breathing drains water from the body. It’s important to stay hydrated to keep the organs working properly.
Getting enough sleep can improve many health issues, including low HRV. Creating a healthy sleep schedule will improve circadian rhythms, which affect HRV. Preparing a bedtime routine can help get your body ready for sleep,
Create An Exercise Routine
Exercise and training are the best ways to boost your low HRV. As your body becomes used to a regular exercise and training routine, your HRV will improve. However, it is essential to not over train because it will induce negative stress in the body and strain your muscles. Too much strain on the body will take it longer to recover.
Maintain A Healthy Diet
It’s no secret maintaining a healthy diet will improve your health. But did you know it can also improve your HRV? Eating certain foods at the same intervals throughout the day can boost your HRV. As your body recognizes your eating patterns, your circadian rhythms will also improve, regulating your HRV.
Spend Time In Nature
Getting outside and enhancing exposure to natural light can boost a low HRV. It will also boost your mood, increase Vitamin D, and regulate your energy levels.
Does Anxiety Cause Low HRV?
We’ve already explored the factors that affect heart rate variability and anxiety and depression are common causes for a low HRV. Anxiety affects your heart rate and also reduces your health if it’s not monitored and regulated. Studies show that people who struggle with anxiety also deal with low HRV. These people can also struggle with cardiovascular disease, which lowers their ability to fight other illnesses.
The body’s longest nerve, the vagus nerve, plays an important role in dealing with anxiety. The vagus nerve extends from the brain stem into the abdomen and transmits messages throughout the nervous system. It regulates a variety of functions, including controlling our moods. If anything impairs the nervous system, it also impairs the vagus nerve, leading to a variety of emotional issues, including anxiety.
How can I raise my HRV?
Knowing how to increase your HRV will allow you to increase your health and wellness and ultimately improve longevity. As we explored above, there are several ways to raise your HRV.
- Prioritize consistent sleep patterns
- Eat a well-balanced diet at regular intervals
- Get into nature
- Stay hydrated
- Avoid alcohol
- Practice meditation and breathing techniques
- Develop a health exercise and training routine
These things are good practices to raise your HRV and improve your health. If you struggle with a consistently low HRV, talk with your doctor about other ways to improve your rate.