What Is Heart Rate Variability and How Do You Measure It?

Last Updated on June 14, 2020

What Is Heart Rate Variability? The heartbeat of a human is a matter of great interest. It continually changes its speed depending on the position an individual is in or with just a simple movement. The frequency in a heartbeat per minute is called heart rate. Heart rate speeds up when we are active, exercising, or stressed out, and it slows down when we rest or feel relaxed.

The most common way to gauge the condition of heart rate and to count it is to put fingers on the wrist or neck. There are heart rate monitors as well to keep a count of heart rate. However, HRV or Heart Rate Variability is related to heart rate but not with its frequency per minute but the fluctuation in time between heartbeats.

What Is Heart Rate Variability?

What Is Heart Rate Variability

To explain HRV further, we need to understand how the heartbeats work. Our heart beats irregularly. It doesn’t beat following a constant interval. The difference between the interval in two pulses can be different from the interval in the next two pulses.

The range varies, and this irregularity or variation in the time interval is healthy. In textbook language, a Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is the variation or fluctuation in the time interval between each heartbeat. HRV informs you about the health of your heart and nervous system.

What is a Good HRV Score?

Anything above 59 is said to be a good HRV score, and it indicates your heart is healthy. Below 59 is risky. Overexercise, stress, overtraining in different sports, psychological issues, sleep deprivation, injury, can lower the heart rate. A small drop is still fine as it provides time to recover, but a considerable decrease can cause death or other cardiovascular diseases. If you have high HRV, then you are adaptable to stress and have excellent cardiovascular fitness. However, if you have low HRV, then its a matter of danger.

When to Measure HRV?

It is essential to measure HRV daily in the morning, just after waking up from the bed. The measurement will be perfect as you will be free from the external factors which can affect it like caffeine consumptions, exercise, or work stress.  Measure the HRV daily for at least a month to get a complete idea about your heart health, assessing a good amount of information.

How to Get a High HRV?

As it is right for your health to have a high HRV, so you should try to maintain a good HRV. For a high HRV score, you can do breathing exercises and eat healthily. Do not deprive yourself of sleep or do not oversleep; both are bad for your heart and health. Not taking stress, and taking a much-needed break to get away from the busy schedules and workload is also proper for scoring a high HRV.

How Do You Measure HRV?

The most common methods of measuring HRV are via ECG and PPG. ECG stands for electrocardiogram, and PPG stands for Photoplethysmography.

Electrocardiogram provides the best and accurate result of HRV. It shows the electrical activity of the heart through the electrodes adhered to the chest. It considers the difference or variation of the R-peak of heartbeats; thus, the interval between the pulses is called R-R intervals. However, ECG cannot be done frequently.

On the other hand, Photoplethysmography depends on the interbeat intervals. In this method, the steepest increase of a heartbeat is considered instead of the actual peak. A stronger blood volume is necessary to get the sharp slope. Estimating the exact timing is difficult, so it gives a less accurate result compared to ECG.

However, measuring HRV is not a complicated process anymore. Different apps provide a proper result of HRV. These apps are compatible with smartphones and smartwatches. Though these are not very reliable and accurate compared to ECG or PPG, yet they come handy as they provide a close result.

Final Words

The number of heart patients is rapidly increasing day by day. The reasons are many, not caring about one’s health and eating junk food, taking stress, air pollution, living a sedentary lifestyle, and much more. We are so busy in our life that we don’t have time to do regular check-ups.

So, if we do an ECG or PPG once or twice a year and rest of the track our HRV through a useful app that measures HRV, then we at least remain aware of the health of our heart. Any drastic change in HRV and the next step one need to take is contacting a professional. Life is precious, and death caused by cardiovascular diseases is the most sudden. So, be aware of your heart and be stress-free.


You may also like to read

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.