What is HRV and why should I care?
Heart rate variability is a marker you should pay attention to! HRV is the difference in time between the beats of your heart- measured in milliseconds (ms) Optimal is thought to be 50 - 100 ms. A low score is not ideal. Heart rate variability is important because it provides insight to the autonomic nervous system and a marker of cardiovascular disease. HRV does decrease with age.
It’s reflection of your cardiac vagal tone. Think of your autonomic system with your heart- the parasympathetic puts the break on your heart rate and your sympathetic system presses on the gas. Our body needs a unique balance of both. These two are playing tug of war!
Our sympathetic system is the fight or flight system and our parasympathetic system is the rest and digest system.
When you have a low HRV it can indicate your body is spending too much time in that fight or flight or sympathetic state. This could be chronic stress, trauma, hard work outs or other stress on your body.
Some ways to increase your Heart Rate Variability?
Focus on the Four Pillars of Health! (Eat. Sleep. Move. Breathe. A Beginner’s Guide to a Healthy Lifestyle)
Let’s get more specific!
1) Eat a balanced diet.
Try an elimination diet and experiment with different foods to see what works best for you. A paleo style diet usually hits all the correct buttons.
2) Drink plenty of clean water and replace electrolytes.
Drinking clean water is going to be very important in maintaining health and a high HRV. Make sure you are drinking clean water, I like AquaTru RO or a Kagen water filter (connect Dr. Jen for more information on this!) Also, make sure you are replacing electrolytes. Redmond relyte is a good choice for this! (Code DRJEN to save 15%!)
3) Meditate and ground yourself.
Meditation is going to turn on that parasympathetic system. Even if you aren’t “good” at it, it’s going to help. Needs some tips? Check out these YouTube videos on breath work!
4) Get high quality sleep.
This is where is can be helpful to have a wearable device to get a good idea of how your sleep is going. Make sure you are getting enough sleep. If you snore you need to get a sleep study to rule our sleep apnea. Supplements, like Stress Less, can be helpful!
5) Set your circadian rhythm.
Get exposed to early morning sunlight. Try to watch the sunset. I don’t wear sunglasses unless I am on a beach or on the water. I want my eyes to get that sunlight during the day. At nighttime, mimic the sunset and avoid blue light at night which suppresses melatonin.
6) Decrease alcohol consumption.
I know, this is a total buzzkill. But it also can crush your HRV. Alcohol decreases REM sleep and is really hard on the liver. So many reasons why alcohol will wreck havoc on your HRV.
What is holding your heart rate variability back? Leave in the comments what you think the culprit might be!
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