Dr. Miaken Zeiger | Monday July 20, 2020
Did you know that Heart Rate Variability is a test that is included in chiropractic spinal screenings conducted by Dr. Miaken Zeigler? Let’s talk about what an HRV test is, why it’s important to your wellness, and how it fits into our treatment of stress and chronic disease.
The current pandemic has shined a light on our country’s overall health and ability to adapt to new disease. Even prior to the pandemic, the US healthcare stats were dismal. According to the Commonwealth Fund, the US spends more on health care, nearly twice as much as the average high-income country, yet has the lowest life expectancy and highest suicide rates among the 11-nations. Additionally, the US has the highest chronic disease burden and an obesity rate that is two times higher than the average high-income countries. We are a high-stressed country, typically taking a reactive role in how we respond to our health.
That is why, when you enter our office, at Zeigler Chiropractic, in addition to understanding your concerns and pain, we choose to evaluate functional and objective measures of how you adapt and respond to stress, which when chronic, leads to disease.
As a part of your initial exam and subsequent re-evaluations, we measure your heart rate variability (HRV) to assess your stress response and how you progress through chiropractic care. This measurement can be confusing; but when you understand it’s importance, it can help you better gauge your lifestyle choices to reduce your body’s stress loads; and potentially bypass the average American’s fate of chronic disease.
So, what is HRV and why is it important?
The rhythm of a healthy heart, even under resting conditions, is irregular, with the time interval between consecutive heartbeats constantly changing. This naturally occurring beat-to-beat variation in heart rate is called HRV. The heart and brain have an intricate relationship in how they influence and communicate to regulate body functions. Normal variability in heart rate is due to the synergistic actions between the two branches of your autonomic nervous system (ANS): your sympathetic nerves act to accelerate your heart rate, while the parasympathetic (vagus) nerve slows it down. These two branches of the ANS are continually interacting with each other to maintain cardiovascular activity in its optimal range and permit appropriate reactions to changing external and internal conditions. Therefore, HRV provides a dynamic window into the function and balance of your ANS; and overall resilience to stress.
Scientists and physicians consider HRV to be an important indicator of health and fitness. As a marker of physiological resilience and behavioral flexibility, it reflects our ability to adapt effectively to stress and the environmental. HRV is also a marker for biological aging. Our heart rate variability is greatest when we are young, and as we age the range of variation within our resting heart rate becomes smaller. Having an abnormally low HRV for one’s age group is associated with increased risk of future health problems and premature mortality.
Understanding your HRV can play a vital role in assessing your level of resiliency and adaptability to stress; whether the stress is chemical, physical, or mental. By reducing stress-induced wear and tear on the nervous system and facilitating the body’s natural regenerative processes, you can restore low HRV to healthy values.
There are many tools you can utilize to increase HRV. A big one: your chiropractic adjustments directly influence your nervous system; and therefore, your response to stress, improving HRV scores. Congratulations to you, who have already started on your proactive health journey. You’ve made the decision to choose health and vitality, which require consistency, intensity, commitment … and over time, know your trajectory in life is moving the dial toward true wellness. Excited to be on the journey with you!
Abrams, Melinda K. and Tikkanen, Roosa. (January 30, 2020) “U.S. Health Care from a Global Perspective, 2019: Higher Spending. Worse Outcomes?”.
The HeartMath Institute. (Summer 2017) “The Heart Brain Connection.” Pathways to Family Wellness, Issue 54, pages 36-38.