5 Tips on How to Improve Heart Rate Variability


Wondering what heart rate variability can tell you about your health? First off, let's talk about what heart rate variability is and then how to improve your heart rate variability to optimize your health.


Heart rate variability, or HRV, is simply a measure of the variability in the time between each heartbeat. It's controlled by your autonomic nervous system (ANS), which also controls your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and digestion.


External stimuli can either tell your ANS to activate or relax different functions in your body. External stimuli that activate it could include moments when your boss tells you you messed something up, when your kids are screaming, or when you get exciting news like engagement or pregnancy announcements.


When you're constantly exposed to negative stressors like:

  • poor sleep

  • arguments with your partner

  • over-packed schedule causing stress

… your fight-or-flight response can shift into overdrive, impacting your HRV.


What can your HRV tell you?

Your heart rate variability can provide useful insights into your:

  • stress levels

  • recovery status

  • and general well-being


For example, when you're in your rest-and-digest mode, there is more room for variability between heartbeats (aka higher HRV), because your heart is beating slower. On the other hand, when your heart is speeding up because your fight-or-flight system is on overdrive, there is less space for variability (aka lower HRV).


When you have higher HVR, it's telling you that you are primarily in rest-and-digest mode, allowing your body to focus on body healing activities and optimal functioning- think optimized digestion, detoxification, better recovery, and immune function.


When you consistently have lower HVR averages, it's a sign that work needs to be done. Your body is in an overactive state that’s not letting your body heal and recover. Instead, it's in high alert mode.


What Impacts HRV?

When you are stressed or experiencing poor sleep, your HRV will decrease because your body will go into fight or flight mode. If you see that you constantly have low HRV averages, it's a sign that you need to prioritize getting your body back into balance.


What range should your HRV be in?

Normal HRV can range anywhere from below 20 to over 200 milliseconds, but this depends largely on various factors such as age, gender, physical fitness, and genetics.


Ideally, you want your HRV to be higher. Higher HRVs are typically associated with better health and improved performance. But optimizing your HRV isn't just about getting to a high number. Your HRV values should also be consistent from day to day to enhance your ability to respond to daily stressors.


Because there are so many variables, it's important to compare your HRV averages to your own baseline and not to other individuals' baselines.


How do you track your HRV?

I personally use and LOVE the Oura ring. It’s a simple ring that you wear day and night to give you an insight into your overall health. It tracks your HRV, as well as your body temperature, light, deep and rem sleep, nighttime movement, sleep timing and quality, and resting heart rate! I found this to be the easiest and most reliable way to track my HRV.


How to increase your HRV and create a consistent HRV

  • Get Good QUALITY SLEEP

  • Stay Active

  • Eat a Whole Foods Diet

  • Breathe Deep

  • Take Time to Rest & Relax


How to Improve Heart Rate Variability

Get Good QUALITY SLEEP

Our society highly underestimates the power of sleep. Optimizing sleep is one of the first things I focus on with my health clients. If you aren't getting high-quality sleep, where you are sleeping through the night and feeling well-rested and energized in the morning, then we got problems. Poor or reduced sleep is associated with lower HRV levels.


Stay Active

Getting in movement a couple of times a week can do wonders for your heart rate variability. If you tend to let the day get away from you without getting in some movement, try to schedule in time strictly for exercise. It doesn't have to be painful either! Pick up a fun hobby like tennis, bike riding, or even hiking in nature to achieve higher and more consistent HRV.


Eat a Whole Foods Diet

While eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is essential, it's also vital when we consume food. You want to avoid processed foods as much as possible and eat your big, whole foods meals towards the beginning of the day. Focus on getting in a large breakfast filled with greens and protein with lighter dinners. Avoid late-night snacking as well! These two factors, healthy foods and optimal eating time have been shown to enhance HRV.


Deeply Inhale

Stop what you are doing. Now take a deep breath in. Incorporating breathing exercises into your daily routine can significantly increase your HRV. This can mean simply practicing deep breathing or box breathing or other activities incorporating breathing like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. When you do this, your heart rate variability will be higher specifically during your exercise and lower during the night, but it can help your overall HRV averages with time. Even breathing exercises alone can give you great results!


Take Time to Rest & Relax

While we can try our hardest to avoid stressful situations and lifestyles, stress is inevitable. When stress does pop up in your life, it's vital to find ways to rest and relax in other parts of your life. Maybe this looks like getting to bed a couple of hours earlier or to take a day off and go for a walk in nature or spending time in your favorite coffee shop to read a book (when was the last time you did that?!). Stress reduces your HRV big time. Learning how to reduce your overall stress and when to take extra rest time is essential in optimal and healthy heart rate variability.


Ready to get your HRV Optimized?

If you want more simple tips and tricks on how to improve heart rate variability, fill out an application to work with me. I'm Jessica Meyers, a functional health provider, and herbal expert. As a functional health provider, I work with you to optimize your lifestyle, diet, and supplements so your body can function in its best, balanced state.


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