Many scientists believe that the future belongs to preventive medicine: our gadgets will collect enough information about health indicators so that we can start taking action even before a real problem arises. So far, this is largely a dream: accurate measurements are still made in laboratories and clinics using expensive and powerful equipment.
Nevertheless, unlike vitals like blood pressure measurement, some things can already be consistently measured using nothing but a smartphone: a straightforward example – heart rate variability (HRV). Mobile software has learned to interpret a simple number into plenty of helpful data pieces about the body, which is used to draw corresponding conclusions about the level of Stress, the central nervous system’s work, and much more.
With this, I’ll have the audacity to tell you how it is possible.
What is heart rate variability?
To put it very simply, this is an indicator that reflects the unevenness of your heartbeat. The heart beats at irregular intervals. So, if rate of your heart is 60 beats per 60 seconds, this does not mean that your heart beats precisely once a second.
And this phenomenon is pretty normal per se. The heart never beats at an even, perfect rate, nor does it ever strive for this. It’s the other way around: the greater the irregularity or variability in heart rate, the better your functional condition.
How to measure HRV?
It used to be done using plain old electrocardiograph registering. However, the major development was the arrival of new tech pieces – smartphones with cameras and flashes, specifically. Consequently, one can quickly put a finger upon the camera, and it will capture every heartbeat, observing changes in blood volume in tissues.
If you aim to improve the accuracy of gathered numbers, the better solution is to use a specific on-body HRV monitor. There is an unmatched variety of them, either stand-alone or integrated into a fitness-tracker device, attached to the chest or the forearm, picking data using electrical and optical systems.
That being said, the raw data is nothing more than a cluster of numbers, unreadable by the general mind. One will need help in interpretation and conclusion drawing. For this, various applications may come in handy, especially HRV biofeedback app. Among them, for example, Welltory is one of the top services in this field.
I suppose it would be correct to elaborate on Welltory here. It is a distinguished “healthy lifestyle” app with a tremendous and well-established market presence. What makes it dominant is the fact that it is often named as the user-friendliest app of its kind, and rightfully so. It alone makes this app very appealing to the general public since understanding vital info right from the start is just what they need.
The adjusted data is neatly organized into the following tabs:
- Performance (overall stats),
- Energy (evaluating the parasympathetic half of vegetative NS)
- and Stress (assessing the sympathetic half of vegetative NS). Consequently, a user interface is second to none. Overall, Welltory might just as well be the best heart rate variability app.
The indicator of variability is sometimes independently computed by some gadgets: Apple Watch and Oura Ring (a ring whose primary purpose is sleep monitoring). We can see results in the Apple Health and Oura apps, respectively. But, as always, there is a slight nuance: these gadgets measure only one indicator of variability – and therefore, you cannot use them for advanced analytics; they lack connectivity with specific applications explicitly written for the variability analysis.
Bear in mind, though, that not every gadget is entirely suitable for HRV measurement – for example, the Populus Fitbit and Mi Band favorites do not provide the raw values of the intervals between heartbeats. Therefore, parameters related to HRV cannot be calculated based on their data. The list of approved devices can be found, for example, – support.welltory.com.
How to apply this in practice?
Heart rate variability is an okayish way to quickly and, more importantly, relatively accurately assess the body’s functional state. Unlike the heart rate, which is more of an immediate reflection of the body’s response to physical load, HRV also takes into account both mental and emotional Stress. Accordingly, by measuring your heart rate variability, you can generally assess how your body tolerates everything that happens in your life.
How to increase heart rate variability?
Because it is widely accepted that greater HRV equals better current body condition, the question regarding ways to increase heart rate variability (and therefore your state) is pretty apparent. There is an obstacle, though – no clear answer can be given. With the corresponding info from health-tracking apps, one should notice its own patterns between routine and HRV.
HRV-related metrics are, unfortunately, inherently volatile. Therefore, it is way more helpful to observe them dynamically throughout the day’s usual routine. If you decide to measure your heart rate variability, you better do it regularly, preferably at the same time of the day. Complete at the very least 4-5 measurements per week – and gradually, you will be able to see some trends, patterns, catch the correlation of parameters with the lifestyle you’re having, and, possibly, adjust it in some way.
To be frank, you probably shouldn’t take variability indicators too seriously. No matter how accurate they may be, numbers should never be used as a substitute for common sense and rational thinking, but they can nonetheless be helpful in chosen situations.
For example, you can decide whether you should keep with the hard work, make a brief pause before going on or abandon the duties altogether till the next day. Your stress management app will assist you with great advice and guide you to the best action route. Just be careful not to miss your deadlines – always undergo a rationality check!