Heart Rate Variability

Have you ever wondered about the effect that stress has on your body? What if there was something you could do today that will improve your health tomorrow? Heart rate variability (HRV) can gather helpful data to determine how harmful a major stressor would be to your health and overall wellness. Most importantly, this assessment can reveal any imbalances in the nervous system that need to be addressed.

What is heart rate variability?

HRV simply measures the time variation between heartbeats. These fluctuations are controlled by the autonomic nervous system, which regulates heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and breathing.

The autonomic nervous system consists of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. While the sympathetic nervous system controls our “fight or flight” stress responses, the parasympathetic nervous system handles our relaxation response. The brain – specifically the hypothalamus – is constantly transmitting information to the rest of the body to either relax or stimulate varying functions. However, if you experience chronic stress, insomnia, or dysfunction, your fight or flight response can slip into overdrive and wreak havoc on your overall health.

How does heart rate variability work?

Simply stated, HRV can tell you how your nervous system is reacting to your environment, including your own thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. When an individual is in a state of fight or flight, HRV is low. During times of relaxation, the HRV is high. Therefore, the higher the HRV, the healthier the response. In other words, the faster you can shift gears from stress to relaxation, the gentler it is on your system as a whole. In fact, a low HRV has been linked to a number of concerning conditions, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Increased risk of death

HRV can provide important insight about your lifestyle and help you take steps to a healthier state of being. It’s not uncommon for an individual’s HRV to increase substantially after incorporating more sleep, exercise, healthy foods, mindfulness, and meditation into their daily lives.

What should I expect during my appointment?

At BioEnergetics, we use the Nerve-Express system – a product that was designed for testing health and wellness of Navy pilots, divers, and other marine personnel. This diagnostic tool is a fully automatic, non-invasive system used to assess the autonomic nervous system.

During your assessment, a HRV strap will be placed around your chest. This strap is then connected to a computer while you sit, stand, and lay for specific intervals of time. We often use this functional assessment as part of our routine intake to determine how well your body reacts to stress, which systems in your body are under stress, and how easily they can heal.

How can I increase my heart rate variability?

Because no two patients are the same, the answer will be slightly different for each individual. However, there are a few things you can do today to help increase your HRV and enjoy a happier, more fulfilling life:

  • Take steps to reduce your stress.
  • Breathe deeply for a few minutes.
  • Go for a walk in nature.
  • Meditate.
  • Keep a gratitude journal.
  • Enjoy a massage.
  • Take a yoga class.

Schedule an assessment today.

At BioEnergetics, we routinely perform BIA as part of our intake process. This data can help us pinpoint body composition problems early on so appropriate treatment can be recommended. To schedule an appointment, contact us online or call us at (401) 443-4007.

    Monday/Wednesday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
    Tuesday/Thursday 8:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.

    The BioMed Center New England
    111 Chestnut Street
    Providence, RI 02903

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