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Heart rate variability refers to the fluctuation in the time between heartbeats. For example, if your heart rate at rest is 60 beats per minute, there’s a good chance your heart isn’t beating exactly each second. Instead, there is variability in the timing between each beat. If your HRV is high, there’s more fluctuation in the rate. If your HRV is low, there’s less fluctuation between the beats, meaning they occur with more regular time in between. A low HRV typically means your sympathetic or fight-or-flight response is dominating. A high HRV indicates the parasympathetic or relaxation response is working.


Many practitioners consider HRV when looking at conditions related to cardiovascular health or mental health issues like depression and anxiety. In a medical setting, an electrocardiogram machine (EKG) is usually used to detect heart rate variability. I use specialized training in HRV through non-medical, inexpensive devices such as a device attached to a band that wraps around your chest. Some look like pulse oximeters (devices that attach to a finger and measure your pulse and blood oxygen level) but are more sensitive and accurate. While useful to an extent, the majority of wrist-worn fitness devices and trackers aren't sensitive enough to detect heart rate variability accurately. Heart rate variability can also be supported through Biofeedback.  

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