Measuring your heart rate variability (HRV) can help you regulate your health and wellness and monitor potential disease. While it’s natural for your HRV to fluctuate throughout the day, a consistently high HRV does not always mean you have optimal health. In this article, we will look at HRV and discuss if a high HRV is a good thing.
What Does HRV Indicate/Measure?
Before we look at high and low HRV, let’s explore what HRV is and why it’s important. HRV, or heart rate variability, is different from your regular heart rate. While your heart rate measures your beats per minute, HRV calculates the length of time between those heart beats.
A healthy heart beats at regular intervals, but it can change depending on sleep, rest, and exercise. The nervous system helps control HRV behind the scenes, regulating blood pressure, digestion, breathing, and more. You can measure your HRV to help monitor your heart health and overall wellness
HRV And Your Nervous System
There are two main components of your nervous system that help control your heart rate variability. The parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous systems both regulate HRV and how your body responds to it. In times of stress, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) recognizes the body’s stress response and raises your HRV. When it’s time to calm the body down, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) takes over to balance the SNS and slow down your heart rate and blood pressure.
What Is A Healthy HRV Range?
Many people who focus on improving their health and wellness also focus on improving their HRV range. A healthy HRV range is different for every person because certain factors play a part in how HRV works in each person. There is, however, a normal range that everyone generally falls into. An indication of a healthy HRV range is if your rate is between 20 and 200 beats per millisecond (MS).
It’s important to remember that HRV is different in each person. For example, athletes may experience higher rates more often, while others may have lower rates because of illness, slower lifestyles, or genetic factors.
What Does It Mean If You Have A High HRV?
As we’ve seen so far, a high HRV can mean many things. If you have a high HRV, it usually means your body has a high tolerance for stress. This is usually present in individuals who are active, such as athletes. The best time to measure your overall HRV is first thing in the morning or other time of rest.
Measuring your HRV is a helpful tool to monitor your overall health and resilience to illness.
If you have a consistently high HRV, this is not exactly favorable for your health. A consistently high rate could mean that your body is not taking time to recover, which can have long-term effects on your health.
What Should My HRV Be For My Age?
Now that we’ve explored what HRV is and the differences between low and high rate, you may wonder what is a good HRV for my age? The important thing to keep in mind about HRV is that it is different for everyone. Your HRV score is unique to you because it varies every day depending on your lifestyle, gender, age, and even environmental factors. Comparing your score to others won’t help improve your personal health because you need to base your rate on your own factors.
While HRV varies for everyone, there is a general range for men and women. On average, the HRV range for men ages 18 to 50 is 20 to 95 beats (MS). The range for women of the same age is approximately 15 to 85 beats (MS). As you get older, your HRV naturally slows down. After age 60, the average HRV range for both men and women is about 20 to 60 beats (MS).
Does Anxiety Affect HRV?
There are many factors that affect HRV regardless of your health and wellness. Stress is a large factor in stimulating the nervous system’s regulation of HRV. However, does anxiety also affect HRV? Research shows people who suffer from depression and anxiety have a lower HRV than those who do not struggle with anxiety or other types of mental disorders. This research shows people who struggle with anxiety disorders also deal with cardiovascular issues, which affect their HRV.
Anxiety disorders inhibit the nervous system to regulate HRV properly and can lead to various chronic illnesses if not treated. Some studies show certain anxiety disorders have a connection with chronically low HRV. If your HRV is consistently low, it could mean your body is struggling to regulate HRV because of an underlying illness. The best way to prevent consistently high or low HRV is to maintain a healthy range through diet, exercise, and healthy lifestyle habits.
Does Mental Stress Affect HRV?
Now that we’ve explored how anxiety affects HRV, let’s look at how mental stress affects HRV. Research also shows that mental stress harms the body’s ability to regulate HRV and the nervous system’s response to stress. This can lead to abnormalities and ultimately chronic illness and disease. A healthy HRV range shows the body can properly regulate stressful situations and other stressors in the body.
Studies show that when the body deals with constant stress, it increases in higher cortisol levels to balance out the stress levels. High cortisol levels impact HRV, causing an imbalance in other body systems. Reducing mental stress can balance out HRV and promote better health and wellness. .
- Listen to quiet music
- Practice intentional meditation and breathing techniques
- Spend time with family and friends
- Do yoga
- Talk a nature walk
- Lower your caffeine intake
- Maintain a balanced diet
These are a few ways to reduce mental stress and improve your HRV for better health and wellness.