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Heart Rate Variability Protects You from Stress?

Hadley Finch intro: Our love muscle is impacted by stress in measurable ways.  See if you need to increase your heart rate variability to withstand stresses in life and love as you enjoy this guest post courtesy of cardiologist-founder of HeartMDinstitute.com

How to increase heart rate variability  to destress by Dr. Stephen Sinatra

Written By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

Heart rate variability (HRV) – the measure of the
variation in time between your heart beats – is
perhaps the most important biomarker you and your
doctor should know. Why? Other, more familiar
biomarkers of cardiovascular health – such as
cholesterol numbers, blood pressure readings,
pulse rate, C-reactive protein – and you probably
know your numbers by heart – all give us
physicians useful information, but none can
conclusively tell us whether you have a normal,
healthy ticker.

Take cholesterol, for example. It’s a pretty poor
indicator of heart disease, if you consider that
more than half the people hospitalized with heart
attacks have perfectly normal cholesterol numbers.

Related to the work of the autonomic nervous
system (ANS), heart rate variability can be used
to track the health and recovery of heart
patients, and is a predictive indicator of overall
cardiovascular health, risk of heart attack, and
other cardiac issues. Essentially, it’s a
physiological measure of emotional stress, and
reflects what’s going on in the mind.

Unfortunately, unless your best friends are all
cardiologists, you’ve probably never heard of
HRV…I’m going to change that.
High and Low Heart Rate Variability

Heart-rate variability is a very simple
measurement: It can be either high or low. If your
heart beats with intervals of identical length
between each pulse, you have “low” heart rate
variability – which is not optimum. A low HRV has
been linked to the development of cardiovascular
disease and metabolic syndrome (diabetes,
hypertension, and high cholesterol), and is
prevalent in people who have had heart attacks.
Decreased heart rate variability is also regarded
as the most accurate reflector of stress, and even
a predictor of sudden cardiac death.

On the other hand, if your heart beats with
intervals of varying length, you have “high” heart
rate variability – this is what you want – a
normal heart rate range. The more easily your
heart rate varies, the better off you are. An
increased HRV shows that your heart is pumping as
needed and responding to the demands of your body.
It indicates a healthy, fit, and well­-rested
heart.
Heart Rate Variability and Your Nervous System

To understand how HRV swings either high or low,
you need a basic understanding of the autonomic
nervous system (ANS). The ANS regulates heart
beat, heart rate, blood pressure, body
temperature, digestion, breathing, and other basic
life-sustaining functions of the body over which
we have no conscious control. The ANS is involved
in all diseases.

This system is divided into two complementary but
oppositional branches, the sympathetic nervous
system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous
system (PSNS). Both are regulated by chemical
messengers called neurotransmitters, rather than
by neural impulses from the central nervous system
(the brain, the spinal cord, and the optic
nerves).

The SNS prepares us for flight or flight by
increasing heart rate, boosting the blood supply
to the heart and muscles, and decreasing blood to
the skin and other organs. By contrast, the PSNS
works to conserve energy by lowering pulse rate
and blood pressure and controls calming responses
such as relaxation, digestion, and sleep. It is
very active at night during sleep, when your body
must regenerate its cells and tissues for the next
day.

Both the SNS and the PSNS are important, and, in a
healthy person, the two systems work harmoniously
to keep the body in balance. But there’s a
tendency for both systems to end up fighting each
other. When someone cuts you off in traffic, your
sympathetic nerves get going to speed up your
heart. At the same time, your parasympathetic
nerves are desperately trying to decelerate your
heart and calm you. So your body is locked into an
internal opposition. Think of this like driving
with one foot on the gas pedal and one foot on the
brake. That’s not good for a vehicle, and it’s not
good for your heart either.

These imbalances affect your heart rate
variability. If your PSNS has been weakened and
your SNS is dominant, this will show up as low
HRV. With low HRV, you’re often less able to go
with the flow when faced with stressful situations
and thus more prone to stress-related disorders
such as cardiovascular problems, all because the
heart is very vulnerable to stress and the
emotions it produces. Improving parasympathetic
tone is a key ingredient in reducing illness.
Test Your Heart Rate Variability

Where does your HRV stand? You can find out at
your doctor’s office through a standard ECG, or
the wearing of a Holter Monitor. Or, you can take
a HRV test with a special machine called a heart
rate variability biofeedback device. The test
lasts about 10 minutes and is painless. Your
health care provider will place a strap around
your chest that monitors heart beats. Half of
these are measured while you lie on your back, and
the rest, while you are standing. The machine
measures the intervals between each heartbeat, and
you’ll come out of the test with a score of high
or low.

How to Improve Your Heart Rate Variability

The good news is that you can raise your heart
rate variability, protect your ANS, and thus
reduce your odds of stress-related disorders,
including heart disease. Here’s how:
1. Heart rate variability training: Regularly
engage in stress management techniques

Essentially, you train your heart through regular
practice to have a conversation with your mind,
and ultimately alleviate stress. Over time, you
can learn to generate a relaxation response that
calms and balances the ANS. Focus mostly on
physical activities that involve conscious
breathing, such as Tai chi, yoga, Pilates,
relaxation, meditation, and imagery sessions – and
do these several times a week. I’m a huge fan of
yogic pranayama breathing, and believe it’s one of
the best ways to improve HRV.

Science backs me up on the importance of these
activities. In a study conducted in India and
published in 2015, researchers assessed the effect
of yoga or swimming on HRV in 100 normal healthy
young volunteers. They were divided into two
groups: those who did yoga and those who swam.
Heart rate variability was checked before the
study, and afterwards. At the end of the 12-week
experimental period, the volunteers who practiced
yoga saw improvements in their HRV, compared to
the swimmers, who did not. The researchers did not
speculate as to why, but I feel that it had to do
with the breathing, and its relaxing effect on the
autonomic nervous system, that is so important in
yoga. When you are in a yoga twist or stretch –
especially if it’s uncomfortable – breathing
through it will ease discomfort, while also
improving HRV. I personally feel that alternate
nostril breathing is the easiest way to improve
your own heart rate variability.

2. Practice Earthing

Earthing, also known as grounding, supports heart
rate variability and is actually a more passive
method of heart rate variability training. You
see, the Earth has a natural energetic field. When
you have physical contact with the Earth’s
surface, you absorb the natural healing energy of
our planet. A study that I conducted with
electrophysiologist Gaetan Chevalier demonstrated
how Earthing improves HRV. We noted that Earthing
counteracts stress by promoting a calming mode in
the autonomic nervous system that regulates
functions such as heart and respiration rates and
digestion. Earthing can rapidly shift the ANS away
from a typically overactive sympathetic mode
associated with stress – and with this shift comes
a higher HRV. As we concluded in the study,
“contact with the Earth – whether being outside
barefoot or indoors connected to grounded
conductive systems – may be a simple, natural, and
yet profoundly effective environmental strategy
against chronic stress, ANS dysfunction,
inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed HRV,
hypercoagulable blood, and many common health
disorders, including cardiovascular disease.”

Earthing is easy to work into your lifestyle. You
can do it by being barefoot outside, gardening, or
swimming in the ocean. Other ways to ground
include camping, hiking, or walking on the beach.
You can also sleep, work, or relax indoors on
special conductive sheets or mats connected to the
Earth with wires plugged into a grounded wall
outlet or a ground rod outside. Or you can just
wear thin, plain leather shoes that let you make
contact with the Earth’s natural vibration. By
contrast, rubber soles like tennis sneakers or
neoprene found in running shoes will keep you
disconnected from the Earth. My recommendation is
to ground at least 150 minutes a week.

3. Reduce Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields
(EMFs)

Over-exposure to the electro-pollution of radio
frequency from cell towers, cordless telephones,
cell phones and even Wi-Fi has the potential to
reduce HRV. Accordingly, reduce the time you spend
exposed to EMFs like cell phone radiation. Some
simple ideas include: limiting the number and
duration of cell phone calls, using your speaker
phone instead, turning off your router at night,
unplugging electrical equipment when not in use,
standing 30 feet back from your microwave when
cooking; and not living near cellular towers and
high-tension power lines. Use a landline instead
of cell phone whenever possible, but make sure
it’s not a cordless phone. Through a 2010 study
(Havas M.) researchers found that exposure to
cordless phone radiation can cause increased or
irregular heart beats and other disturbances of
HRV. Stating that, “forty percent of the subjects
experienced some changes in their HRV attributable
to digitally pulsed (100 Hz) [microwave] radiation,” the researchers also noted that, the
“dramatic changes observed in both heart rate (HR)
and HR variability were associated with
[microwave] exposure at levels well below (0.5%)
federal guidelines in Canada and the United States
(1,000 microW/cm2).”
4. Avoid Pollutants and Toxins

Air pollution is associated with reduced heart
rate variability, so you’ll want to avoid smoggy
or high-traffic areas as much as possible. Toxins
such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), which
are common compounds used in plastics, are linked
to low HRV, too. Avoid canned foods (the linings
contain BPA) and drink your water out of glass
bottles or containers. Stay away from plastic
containers as much as possible.

5. Listen to Music

Relaxing to soothing music helps deepen your
breathing, which positively affects your ANS and
thus heart rate variability. A caution: Don’t
listen to heavy metal music if you’re concerned
about heart health. Research shows that heavy
metal music will lower your HRV. Tranquilizing
music such as slow-tempo classical compositions is
best. But pick music that you enjoy and truly
relaxes you. If you don’t like classical music,
for example, you won’t enjoy it, and it won’t
likely have a healing effect on you. Maybe for
you, reggae music – the beat of which is said to
most closely resemble the human heart beat – is
instead the more relaxing choice.

6. Get Help for Depression

The connection between heart disease and
depression is well known, and a history of major
depression is considered a powerful independent
predictor of future cardiac events. One reason is
that depression is associated with a lowered HRV.
Counseling, regular exercise, and proper nutrition
are all complementary therapies that can help you
banish the blues and improve your heart rate
variability.

7. Take Targeted Nutritional Supplements

As far as supplementation goes, my standard
recommendation for HRV and overall cardiac health
daily is multivitamin/mineral foundation program
with 1 – 2 grams of fish oil, bolstered each day
by Coenzyme Q10 (90-150 mg); L-carnitine (500-1000
mg), D-ribose (5 gm); and Magnesium (400 mg).
Vitamin B12 has been shown in research to increase
HRV, particularly if you’re following a vegan or
vegetarian diet. In either case, take 100 mcg or
more, up to 750 mcg daily.
References:

Sawane MV, and Gupta SS. Resting heart rate
variability after yogic training and swimming: A
prospective randomized comparative trial.
International Journal of Yoga. 2015;8(2):96-102.
Chevalier G, et al. Earthing: health
implications of reconnecting the human body to the
Earth’s surface electrons. Journal of
Environmental and Public Health. 2012.
Havas M, Marrongelle J, et al. Provocation
study using heart rate variability shows microwave
radiation from 2.4 GHz cordless phone affects
autonomic nervous system. Eur. J. Oncol. Library
Vol. 5, 2010
McNamee DA, et al. A literature review: the
cardiovascular effects of exposure to extremely
low frequency electromagnetic fields. Int Arch
Occup Environ Health. 2009;82(8):919-933.
Mordukhovich I, et al. Exposure to sub-chronic
and long-term particulate air pollution and heart
rate variability in an elderly cohort: the
Normative Aging Study. Environ Health.
2015;14(1):87.
Bae S, et al. Associations of bisphenol A
exposure with heart rate variability and blood
pressure. Hypertension. 2012;60:786-793.
do Amaral, JA, et al. The effects of musical
auditory stimulation of different intensities on
geometric indices of heart rate variability.
Altern Ther Health M. 2015;21(5):16-23.
Gathright EC, et al. Executive function
moderates the relationship between depressive
symptoms and resting heart rate variability in
heart failure. Journal of Behavioral Medicine.
2015:1-9.
Sauder KA, et al. Effects of omega-3 fatty
acid supplementation on heart rate variability at
rest and during acute stress in adults with
moderate hypertriglyceridemia. Psychosom Med.
2013;75(4):382-9.
Sucharita S, et al. Vitamin B12
supplementation improves heart rate variability in
healthy elderly Indian subjects. Auton Neurosci.
2012;168(1-2):66-71.

© 2015 HeartMD Institute. All rights reserved.

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Use this news to create happy, sexy health that lasts,

Hadley Finch

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