Heart Rate Variability - What's Your Trend?

September 12, 2022 | Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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 Heart Rate Variability - What's Your Trend?
Do you have a smart watch? Or know someone with a smart watch or other “wearable” technology that monitors “heart rate variability” or HRV? Your child athlete may monitor their heart rate variability in sports to judge their training and recovery. Measuring HRV is a fun and highly valuable tool that provides insight into your health, habits, and nutritional needs.

Heart Rate Variability


Heart rate refers to the number of heart beats per minute. Heart rate variability (HRV) is different. It measures the amount of time between each heartbeat. HRV reflects the balance of your autonomic nervous system. This is the balance between the fight/flight sympathetic nervous system and the rest/relax/digest parasympathetic nervous system and how it impacts the heart. HRV is directly affected by your diet, lifestyle, stress, and nutritional status.

High vs Low HRV


A high HRV number generally indicates that your heart and autonomic nervous system are functioning well and adapting to stress. A high HRV is found in younger and/or generally healthier individuals.

A low HRV reflects that your heart and autonomic nervous system regulation is stressed. Low HRV is associated with increased illness and risk of overall mortality. Low HRV is also linked with poor impulse control and diminished stress tolerance that affects your physiology, cognitive, and emotional responses. Reduced ability to make good food choices, impulse eating, binging, or stress eating has been linked with reduced heart rate variability.

Things that Negatively Impact Heart Rate Variability


Heart Rate Variability is influenced by several factors. These include body temperature, sleep cycle, noise, environmental temperature, and time of day, body position, breathing mechanics, movement, and more.

Some common things that negatively impact or lower HRV include:

• Aging

• Circadian rhythm dysregulation and variability

• Sedentary Lifestyle

• Obesity

• Sugar and high fructose corn syrup

• High carbohydrate diets and high blood sugar

• High saturated fat and trans fats in diet

• Insulin resistance

• Burnout and Insufficient Sleep

• Shift work

• Caffeine

• Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons This is a class of chemicals that occur naturally from burning coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage, tobacco, and from asphalt fumes. In addition, grilled or charred meat and other foods cooked at high temperatures also contribute to PAH exposure.

• Nighttime eating

• Chronic inflammation and immune dysregulation


Things that Support Heart Rate Variability



Several nutrients, foods, and lifestyle habits support HRV and a healthy autonomic nervous system. These include:

• Vitamin B12. This vitamin is especially critical during pregnancy and in the elderly.

• Carotenes

• Choline

• Curcumin

• DHA (HRV) and heart rate

• Hemp and cannabinoids

• Magnesium

• Melatonin

• Multiple vitamin

• Zinc

• Vitamins C, D, E, iron, and coenzyme Q10.

Other factors and foods that support healthy HRV include:

• Optimal Hydration

• Exercise – resistance training and endurance training

• Almonds

• Avocado

• Beet root

• Others


A one-time measurement of HRV provides a small piece of information – like looking through one small window in a building. Better information is obtained with repetitive measurements that consistently track data over the course of weeks or even months.

Populations with Higher Nutritional Needs for HRV Support


Nutritional fortification and HRV support is especially important for women who are pregnant and nursing, young children for neurodevelopment, and the elderly. Those with high recovery needs from trauma, surgery, or illness, athletes, chronic inflammatory-stress, and individuals with gut health concerns need extra care, too.

Anyone who consumes a high fat/high sugar/high calorie-nutrient poor diet will lack one or more of these nutrients impacting their HRV and their ability to age well. Plant-based diets may not provide all the above nutrients, which may negatively impact HRV.

Diet and Nutrition


Strive for a whole foods diet rich in multi-colored fruits and vegetables, quality organic, grass-fed, free-range or wild caught animal proteins, unrefined grains, soaked/sprouted beans/legumes, seeds and nuts, and a variety of oils with an emphasis on omega-3 DHA/ EPA (cold water fatty fish), and ALA (flax, chia seeds, walnuts). Follow The Leptin Diet to help entrain your body’s natural circadian rhythms and metabolic needs.

To meet minor stress demands and needs, consider supplemental use of Daily Energy Multiple Vitamin, Daily DHA, and Daily Protector Eye & Immune in addition to a healthy diet, exercise, and lifestyle. If you have more in-depth needs, consider advanced support with Turmeric Gold, Activator Plus, Super Brain Booster, RelaxaMag, and/or Hemp Spectrum.

Smart phones and “wearables” can provide you with instant access to your HRV with the “number” and proof of your trend. Take a moment to assess your overall health by asking a few questions about your health that affects your HRV trend

How are you doing with sleep quality and quantity? Diet quality and timing? Stress tolerance, circadian rhythm pattern (staying up too late or interrupted sleep, etc.), shift work or rotating schedules? Do you have a sedentary lifestyle or are you getting regular exercise? Are you overweight or fit and trim? What about your blood sugar stability and carbohydrate, sugar, and high fructose corn syrup intake? Are you burned out and exhausted? Do you feel like you are aging too fast?

Understanding and supporting your HRV trend is important and vital to health and well being. HRV is not just a number. It tells you the trend of your autonomic nervous system (parasympathetic and sympathetic) balance with your heart. What is your HRV trend?

More detailed information about HRV may be found in the article Heart Rate Variability – Why You Should Know Yours

Additional related information may be found below.

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Memory Neurotransmitter & Gut Health Linked

POTS, Chronic Fatigue, and Autoimmune Disorders

Vitamin B12 Essential for Energy, Mood, and Overall Health

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