HRV – Influencing Factors
A good functioning autonomic nervous system tries continuously to outbalance the sympathetic and 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 heart beats, in active moments the sympathetic influence dominates leading to a decrease in HRV.
Characteristic for our western industrialized and stressed society is the dominant sympathetic state of most people life. Through the constant “fight and 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 life. Nevertheless it is interesting, that even though this seems to be the common rule, people, who have a balanced and healthy life style maintain a strong HRV up to high ages.
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 can not 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.
Generally 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) as 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 and 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 can not outbalance the situation anymore, expressing itself in one or other symptoms.
Besides the habitual patterns, further external factors 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 cultural caused health problems.
Also environmental factors like contamination, noise, poor drinking water etc influence our HRV.
A study of Sloan et al. shows also that social status can be reflected in the HRV. Wonderful work of Stephen Porges show that even social behavior can be associated with the HRV.
Another important aspect is the constant stress generated from our media. The German word for entertainment = 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 the person small (want to hide and not be seen) it also reduces our 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 focusses, in other words decreases in its variability. The saying “analysis is paralysis” is a nice summary.
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 an education with the main goal to focus, train the brain to be as efficient as possible. Flooded with information we hardly have time to “digest” all this input. In combination with fear, lack of relaxation and recuperation does this resulting “mental noise” 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 like for example heart attack.
The HRV is influenced by many different factors as shown in the following graph.
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