What is HRV?

Your sinus rhythm is the normal beating of your heart. Your heartbeat has a specific rate that changes depending on your activity level. It is slower when you are resting and speeds up when exercising or under stress. The fluctuations between each heartbeat is known as your HRV. 

What is HRV?

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a measure of the fluctuations of time between each heartbeat. These fluctuations are a fraction of a second and are detected only by specialized devices like an EKG. HRV may indicate a physical health problem such as a heart condition or mental health issues like anxiety and depression, though a HRV within normal ranges indicates a healthy lifestyle. 

Your HRV changes based on your circumstances. When you are stressed or in danger, your heart rate speeds up. When you are relaxed or sleeping, your heart rate slows down. HRV decreases naturally as we age. The heart knows how to react to changes based on signals from other parts of the body.

Sinus arrhythmia is when the variability between your heartbeats is more than 0.12 seconds. HRV sometimes meets the criteria for sinus arrhythmia. Sinus arrhythmia is often caused by breathing but may signify another heart problem. 

What Is A Good HRV Rate?

A good HRV rate is different for each individual. Heart rate variability is used to measure a person’s health and physical fitness level and helps determine the body’s preparedness to perform. Usually, a higher HRV indicates better physical fitness than a person with a lower HRV. There are many factors to consider when determining if you have a good HRV rate, such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Fitness level
  • Lifestyle
  • Genetics
  • Environment

Older adults have a lower HRV than younger people. Males have a higher HRV than females. Athletes have a higher HRV than those that are not active. When working to improve your health and physical fitness, you should see your HRV rise over time. Heart rate variability is measured in milliseconds. Here are some averages:

  • 65 milliseconds for men
  • 62 milliseconds  for women
  • 78 milliseconds  for 25-year-olds
  • 60 milliseconds  for 35-year-olds
  • 48 milliseconds  for 45-year-olds
  • 44 milliseconds  for 55-year-olds

What Can HRV Tell You?

An individual’s heart rate variability is a reflection of their body’s adaptability. A high HRV indicates that your body is ready to adapt to different changes. People who report being happy and less stressed typically have a higher heart rate variability.

A low HRV can tell you that your body struggles to adapt to changing situations. Low HRV may tell you that you have a health problem or are at a higher risk for one. This is also true of individuals with a higher resting heart rate. There is less opportunity for HRV when your heart is beating faster. A low HRV is associated with health conditions such as:

  • Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart Arrhythmia
  • Asthma
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Is High Or Low HRV Better?

Your body’s autonomic nervous system (ANS) is responsible for regulating heart rate variability. ANS is made up of the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches. The sympathetic branch is responsible for meeting the different demands of life, such as:

  • Fight or flight response
  • Stress
  • Preparing to act, react, and perform
  • Activates stress hormone production
  • Increases heart’s contraction rate
  • Decreases HRV

The parasympathetic branch of the ANS controls the body’s relaxation response. It slows your blood pressure and heart rate and increases HRV. HRV increases during relaxation, sleep, and meditation. Low HRV is associated with illness and stress; therefore, high HRV is better. 

What Is A Good HRV Rate While Sleeping?

Tracking your HRV rate is important when you want to improve your health and physical fitness. You will notice an increase in HRV rate over time when you engage in regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle. If your HRV is decreasing, that may be a sign you are not getting enough sleep or not maintaining a healthy diet. 

Your quality and quantity of sleep will impact your HRV rate. Having a normal sleep schedule in which you go to bed and wake up at the same time each day benefits your overall health and HRV. Your HRV changes as you enter into a deeper sleep and encounter changes in respiratory rate.

How Do I Increase My HRV Score?

You can do many things to improve and increase your HRV score. Making healthy lifestyle changes will increase your HRV score. Here are some easy ways to improve your HRV score:

Drink Plenty of Water

Drinking plenty of water may increase your HRV score by up to 3 milliseconds. Blood circulates oxygen and nutrients more easily throughout your body when you are well hydrated. You should aim to drink half to one ounce of water per pound you weigh each day.

Eat a Well-Balanced Diet

Eating well is not just about what you eat, but when you eat as well. Regular eating habits help you maintain your circadian rhythm. You should avoid eating within three or four hours of going to bed. Eating a healthy diet of whole foods will increase your HRV score.

Get Regular Exercise

Regular cardiovascular exercise is the best way to increase your HRV score. But too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing. Avoid overtraining and give your body time to recover.

Avoid Drinking Alcohol

Consuming alcohol can cause your HRV to drop about 22 milliseconds. This decrease in heart rate variability can last for several days.

Get Good Sleep

Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is beneficial to your HRV score. You should try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.

Meditation and Intentional Breathing

Mindfulness meditation and intentional breathing are two ways to relax your body and reduce stress. Practicing slow, controlled breathing techniques will increase your heart rate variability and improve your health.

Get Some Sunshine

Spending time outdoors is beneficial to our health for several reasons. Fresh air and sunlight promote physical and emotional well-being. Hormone levels, energy levels, and HRV are impacted positively when you spend time outside and in nature.

Should I Be Worried About My HRV?

Heart rate variability is an indicator of your body’s vulnerability to chronic disease and stress. A low HRV rate may lead to heart disease. Increasing your HRV will improve blood pressure, anxiety, depression, cardiac function, and autonomic nervous system function. 

The first step to improving your HRV score is tracking it on a Biostrap, Fitbit, or another biofeedback device. If you have a low heart rate variability, you should take small steps to improve your health. In addition to eating healthy and exercising, supplements may help.