Heart rate variability

Heart rate variability (HRV) describes the natural ability of the heart to change the time interval from one heartbeat to the next.

This phenomenon serves as a scientifically sound tool and enables the accurate recording of different health and disease states.

What is heart rate variability?

Heart rate variability is the time difference of successive heartbeats and is measured in milliseconds. These fluctuations are only fractions of a second. But it is precisely with these small variations that health problems such as heart disease, depression, stress, burnout and much more can be detected at an early stage. Thus, heart rate variability is a measure of the general adaptability and health of an organism.

How does heart rate variability work?

The heartbeat and its variability depend on each other and are shaped by both external and internal influences. For example, the pulse during sleep or at rest is rather low and the heart rate variability is high. Conversely, it is with sport or stress: the pulse is high and the variability is low. However, this does not always have to be the case!
For more information on how heart rate variability behaves in different situations, you can read here (→ explanation page of typical HRV values – HRV decreases with age or illness).

Is an uneven heartbeat bad for me?

A variable heartbeat is normal and the greater the deviation from one heartbeat to the next, the better. High HRV is generally considered healthy.

“A healthy heartbeat is never rigid, but variable and constantly changes depending on the level of activity.”

What is heart rate variability for?

Heart rate variability reflects the adaptability of an organism. With high HRV, it is assumed that the individual can react quickly and effectively to changes in the situation. People with high HRV levels are more stress-tolerant and happier. Low heart rate variability is associated with less resistance.

How is HRV measured?

HRV can only be measured if every electrical signal that triggers a heartbeat is accurately detected. This is only possible with electrodes. In the past, HRV was mainly measured using adhesive electrodes and an associated ECG. Today, sensors that can be worn on the upper body, which are connected to chest straps, are becoming increasingly popular. They record the activation of the heart with high precision with the help of integrated electrodes.

In order to be able to make valid statements, it is recommended to carry out a long-term measurement of about 24 hours.

Short-term measurements, which must be at least 5 minutes long, only show a snapshot.

Sensors that are worn on the wrist – for example, smartwatches – are usually inaccurate due to their signal recording and therefore cannot be compared with chest straps or adhesive electrodes.

What is a good heart rate variability score?

Heart rate variability is highly individual, different for each person and even differs greatly depending on the type of activities performed during a measurement. HRV cannot be judged on the basis of a single value.

In order to exploit the significance of HRV, it is necessary to put the relevant HRV values in the context of all recorded activities of the measurement. This is the only way to identify correlations and correctly analyze heart rate variability.

How can I improve my heart rate variability?

HRV is a parameter that can be influenced in many ways. Several heart rate variability measurements of the same person, on similar days, often show only slightly different results. On the other hand, stimuli such as a febrile infection or an overwhelming sports session can be reflected in a strongly deviating HRV in an individual for a short time.

Heart rate variability as a measure of the general physical and mental condition can be increased by a healthy lifestyle. Exercise, healthy eating, and a positive social environment – these are just some of the things you can look for in order to experience an improvement in HRV.

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