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What is HRV (Heart Rate Variability) on your Smart Watch and Why is it so Important?

With the invention of health wearables and smart watches by Apple and Google has come a slew of data about your health that was not readily available on a daily basis. One of the most important data points, in my opinion, is the Heart Rate Variability - HRV.

HRV is a measure of the variation in the time between two heartbeats. This variation is controlled by the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which is responsible for regulating involuntary bodily functions such as heart rate, breathing, and digestion.

The ANS has two parts: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The SNS is responsible for the "fight-or-flight" response, while the PNS is responsible for the "rest-and-digest" response.

When the SNS is activated, the heart rate increases and the HRV decreases. This is because the SNS is stimulating the heart to beat faster. When the PNS is activated, the heart rate decreases and the HRV increases. This is because the PNS is stimulating the heart to beat slower.

Why is this important?

HRV is an excellent indicator of the health of the ANS. A higher HRV indicates that the ANS is functioning well and that the body is able to adapt to stress. A lower HRV indicates that the ANS is not functioning well and that the body is not able to adapt to stress as well.

HRV has been linked to many health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, depression, & anxiety. Studies have shown that people with low HRV are more likely to develop these conditions.

How can I improve my HRV?

There are a number of things you can do to improve your HRV, including:

  • Exercise regularly - Exercise helps to strengthen the heart & improve the function of the ANS.

  • Get enough sleep - Sleep is crucial for the body to repair itself & restore balance to the ANS.

  • Manage stress - Stress can have a negative impact on HRV. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as yoga, meditation, or spending time in nature.

  • Eat a healthy diet - A healthy diet can help to improve overall health and well-being, which can also benefit HRV.

HRV is a valuable tool for assessing the health of the ANS and for monitoring the effects of stress and other lifestyle factors on the heart. If you are concerned about your HRV, talk to your doctor. They can help you determine if there are any underlying health conditions that need to be addressed and recommend ways to improve your HRV.

A sudden drop in your HRV may also indicate a cold or flu coming on and give you a chance to load up on vitamins, sleep and be smarter about your eating and lifestyle choices!

The chart below shows an average range, according to your age, where your HRV should be. Athletes and active people should be higher in that range or even above.


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