What is the Heart Rate Variability (HRV)?
The implementation of the body´s own vibration into music happens of the principles of the analysis of the heart rate variability (HRV). Heart rate variability is an established scientific analysis methode since many years and describes the variability of the heart rate. This is regulated by rhythmic changing activity of the parasympathetic and sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Today HRV is regarded as a global indicator of the regulatory capacity of the human.
A healthy human heart beats (in contrast to the general assumption) in relation to the distance between each heart beat not exactly regularly but subtle irregularly (RR1,RR2…. see chart).
The distance between two heartbeats is defined as the time interval between the beginning of two contractions of the heart chambers. This beginning of the contraction appears in the Electrocardiogram (ECG) as the so called R-Point (upward “R” spikes of the graphical deflections seen on a typical ECG wave). The distance between the R-points is called RR-Interval or IBI (Interbeat Interval).
Essentially the HRV is based on the functional interaction of the sympathetic, parasympathetic system and the sinoatrial (sinus) node, which can only partly be influenced intentionally. It is called the sympathovagal modulation of the sinus node activity.
The Heart Rate Variability test is an established, non-invasive electrophysiologic test for an assessment of the cardiac autonomic nervous system.
There are variations with every beat of the heart. This makes sense because the organism and thus also the heart is constantly influenced by external and internal stimuli. A stress situation for example, caused by physical and / or mental stress, leads to an adaptive response of the heart, showing a decrease in the variation range from beat to beat of the heart rate. On the other hand, the variation range increases during rest and relaxation.
Parasympathetic nervous system
The parasympathetic nervous system is generally responsible for recovery actions, energy storage, digestion, sleep, and up-building processes of the body (trophotropic actions – relating to the innate inclination for preservation and restoration of depleted nutritional supplies). It decreases the blood pressure and decelerates the heart beat (bradycardia).
The main player of the parasympathetic nervous system is the Vagus, the tenth cranial nerve (vagus – “wandering” nerve). It reaches from the cerebellum and brainstem to the lowest viscera of the abdomen, passing the heart and major organs on its way through the body. Respiration has a big effect of the activity of the vagus. During inhalation its activity declines and during exhalation the vagus can unfold itself.
“Learn how to exhale, the inhale will take care of itself.”
Sympathetic nervous system
The main function of the sympathetic nervous system is to control active processes in the body. Often referred as the “fight and flight” response of the body. It is responsible for the energy provision and discharge, degradation of metabolic processes (ergotropic mechanisms – the functional status of the nervous system that favor the organism’s capacity to expend energy), respiration, the acceleration of the heart beat (tachycardia) and increase of blood pressure. The sympathetic activity increases the preparedness for action. It increases the blood glucose levels to guarantee a fast energy source. Further, it increases one’s level of attention and the power of concentration.
The Autonomic Nervous System
The Autonomic Nervous System controls the involuntary actions of the smooth muscles, heart, glands, stomach, bladder and blood vessels. The purpose of the ANS is further to regulate and balance between tension and relaxation in the body. This is achieved through the antagonistic interaction of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic and parasympathetic system are being influenced through the central mechanisms (brain) as well as the feedback from the periphery (organs). Thereby the measurements of the HRV can make a statment of the central mechanisms (brain) as well as of the organs.
Summarised it means that the higher the HRV the faster the heart can adjust to internal or external influences, and the organism is reacting much better on the environment. The better the interaction between the sympathetic and parasympathetic activity, the better the adaption ability of the organism. A low HRV could be an indicator of limited health conditions and can be an indicator for acute risks in the cardiovascular system, physical illness, cancer or neuropathies.
The HRV could be compared with the indication of fever: different kinds of diseases can be shown by fever or in a reduction of the HRV, although a lot of different causes may be the trigger for both parameters .
History of HRV
Already since long ago, humans focused on the pulse, its relation to the self healing ability of the body and how it can be used to diagnose different symptoms. One of the most famous and probably most quoted person in relation to HRV is the physician Wang Shuhe, who lived 1700 years ago in China.
The sentence „If the heartbeat gets as regular as the knocking of the
woodpecker or the dripping of the rain on the roof the patient will die within 4 days“ describes beautifully the knowledge and awareness, which must already have existed at that time in relation to the variability of the heart beat. His book “Mai Ching” in which he divides the pulse into 24 different types had a big influence on Chinese Medicine.
The analysis of the pulse is up to today in the traditional Chinese Medicine an important method to get an understanding of the actual state of a patient.
In modern medicin the HRV analysis became important with the possibility of digital signal processing techniques in the 1960s. Today several thousand studies in relation to HRV show the enormous importance of this analysis method.
Early detection and prognosis
Within intensive care the HRV measurement has become important in the early detection of potential complications for instance in sepsis (generalized a life-threatening inflammatory condition of the whole body) as well as a prognostic factor after diseases. After heart diseases have occurred the HRV measurement can provide valuable indications to other problems. During rehabilitation of patients with cardiovascular symptoms it has shown that post-infarction patients with a low variability have a higher mortal rate than compared to patients with a normal HRV. It seems that the risk stratification is possible to see due to the HRV analysis.
HRV is being used in the diagnostics of diabetic neuropathy. A reduced HRV is the first indicator of a cardiovascular autonomic diabetic neuropathy. It has shown that patients with depression has an increased heart rate and a reduced HRV. It seems that people with depression can be accompanied with a heart disorder.
Within a therapy the HRV measurements can be used as a biological indicator of a diagnosis, therapy selection and therapy monitoring.
The last couple of years there has been seen an increase in research in sport medicine in relation to HRV. The main focus here is to see how the HRV reacts on physical activity and set training impulses accordingly. The HRV data can show if the body is being put in an overtraining state.
6844 Altach / Österreich
+43 699 18193177
+43 699 19468345