What is Heart Rate Variability-HRV?
Heart Rate Variability-HRV is the calculation of the variability between beats of the heart. It reviews the R to R waves of the heart beat and calculates how much variability there is between each beat. The heart rate and rhythm are largely under the control of the autonomic nervous system and therefore calculating how much variability between the R and R beats of the heart gives a glimpse into how the autonomic nervous system in your body is functioning.
A lower Heart Rate Variability (HRV) has been clinically shown to correlate to a lower or weaker autonomic nervous system. The higher your HRV is, the stronger your autonomic nervous system is.
So how does that relate to overall wellness?
The clinical importance of HRV was documented in the late 1980s, when studies confirmed that HRV was a strong and independent predictor of mortality after an acute myocardial infarction (heart attack). Low HRV has also been shown to be an indicator of possible future heart disease.
The lower the ability your heart has to respond to stress can be a sign of a weakened heart.
Liver cirrhosis is also associated with lower HRV. Decreased Heart Rate Variability in patients with cirrhosis has a prognostic value and predicts higher mortality.
In diabetes mellitus a lower HRV appears to precede or forewarn of diabetic neuropathy and also warn of more negative prognosis.
HRV has been shown to be reduced in individuals reporting a greater frequency and duration of daily worry and those showing signs of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
Autonomic Nervous System
The heart rate and rhythm are largely under the control of the autonomic nervous system. The two arms of the autonomic nervous system are the sympathetic and the parasympathetic.
- Rest and digest or
- Feed and breed response
This system promotes relaxation, digestion, sleep and recovery and works to restore the body to it’s normal position.
The sympathetic system is known as the:
The release of noradrenaline and adrenaline through the sympathetic system can cause pupil dilation, increased sweating, increased heart rate, and increased blood pressure. This response is to prepare the body for an emergency situation and prepare the body to avoid the danger.
The physical differences between the two systems can be divided up as:
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