HRV – Influencing Factors
A good functioning autonomic nervous system tries continuously to balance the sympathetic- parasympathetic area, reflecting itself in a good and strong Heart Rate Variability.
In moments of rest the parasympathetic influence dominates, increasing the variability of consecutive heartbeats, in active moments the sympathetic influence dominates leading to a decrease in HRV.
The dominant sympathetic state of most people is characteristic of our Western, industrialized and stressed society. Through the constant “fight or flight” mode of our body we “train” our heart like body builders to a rigid state and into a decreased Heart Rate Variability.
Many HRV studies show that the HRV decreases continuously during one’s lifetime, Nevertheless, even though this seems to be the common rule, it is interesting that people, who have a balanced and healthy lifestyle, maintain a strong HRV up to a high age.
The HRV is thus very helpful to reflect one’s real lifestyle and monitor one’s actual state .
The electrocardiogram (ECG) is a great tool to show already manifested deficiencies or problems of the heart. But it is often not sufficient to rely only on the ECG. Up to 50% of all heart attacks cannot be “predicted” through the ECG.
The HRV reflects literally the liveliness of the heart.
This liveliness could also be described as the change in movement.
In general it can be stated that a good HRV combined with a healthy, resting heart rate is an indicator for a good functioning regulation- and self healing ability.
Short chain carbohydrates (glycemic index > 70) like sugar, white bread (especially refined products) etc. are literally the best accelerator for a fast pulse and blood pressure problems. In combination with saturated fat, constant stress, little sleep, few resting periods reduced movement it results in a reduced HRV with a fast pulse and/or high blood pressure. It could be compared with an old tree in a storm. The rigidness or lack of flexibility of a reduced HRV in combination with a fast pulse increases the risk of a breaking point- a situation where the body cannot find balance anymore, which expresses itself in one or more symptoms.
Besides the habitual patterns there are further external factors which influence our HRV. Electromagnetic and especially strongly pulsed “stress” from WLAN, mobile phones, digital television etc. will surely in the near future be identified as a further factor responsible for a reduced HRV and typical culturally linked health problems.
Environmental factors like contamination, noise, poor drinking water etc. also influence our HRV.
A study of Sloan et al. shows also that social status can also be reflected in the HRV. The wonderful work of Stephen Porges shows that the HRV can even be associated with types of social behaviour.
Another important aspect is the constant stress. Generated from our media. The German word for entertainment is Unterhaltung (from unten-halten) literally means “keep you down”. According to the motto “only bad news are good news” we are constantly flooded with negative emotions, which leads to a constant unaware state of fear in our life. Fear does not only make a person small (want to hide and not be seen) it also reduces his/her HRV. The body and thus the heart does not distinguish between real danger and imagined danger.
It is very interesting to observe that our HRV is so strongly influenced by our mental activity. The moment we focus with our brain, also our HRV also focusses, in other words decreases in its variability. The saying “analysis is paralysis”explains it nicely.
Our society is a “bring it to the point” – society. This saying could also be put in relation to the HRV. Our society is characterized by the type of education, which main goal is to teach us to focus, and to train the brain to be as efficient as possible. We are flooded with information we hardly have time to “digest” all this input. This resulting “mental noise”, in combination with fear, lack of relaxation and recuperation, have the side effect of a reduced HRV, undermining our ability for self-regulation.
Statistic of the industrialized countries show that the main cause of death are cardiovascular diseases, for example heart attack.
HRV Measurement and Parameter
How is the HRV being measured, and what parameter makes which statement possible?
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