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Heart Rate Variability

29 January 2021
Anonymous

It’s January and that time of year again to redouble your efforts to arduously move the needle towards better health.  In fact, of the almost 75% of Americans who make resolutions, personal health continues to be the number 1 goal, ahead of money, relationships and career. The reason so many choose health as their primary goal is because studies indicate that healthier people tend to be better off financially, have better social interactions, and tend to be happier overall.

Over the past decades Americans have been searching for that one biomarker that will give us an accurate snapshot of our overall well-being. We have gone from heart rate to blood pressure to cholesterol and back.  Recently, however, newer technology has emerged to track the one variable that may well be the one best marker of our overall wellbeing. That marker is Heart Rate Variability or HRV.

So what exactly is Heart Rate Variability?  Without getting to deep into the details, HRV measures the time in between heartbeats or the R-R interval.  This interval is not constant. It is actually shorter when we inhale and longer when we exhale.  These changes in HRV provide a window into how well our autonomic nervous system is functioning.  This in turn provides us with an excellent opportunity to examine just how our lifestyle choices affect our health in real time. 

Although HRV has been known about for decades, I have begun tracking my HRV again as the technological advances have this task so much more user friendly. For the past week I have been using the CorSense Elite HRV monitor which connects to an app on my phone allowing me to measure my HRV. Daily use of this particular HRV monitor not only gives me an indication of the current status of my HRV, it also provides me with a “daily readiness score”.  This indicates if I am ready for a hard workout or whether I need to dial it back because my body is already registering too much stress.

Things I can control to attempt to improve my HRV are diet, sleep, managing stress as well as tweaking my training volume and intensity.  Other factors that I cannot control are age and gender. Men tend to score just a little higher than females in a similar age range, while scores for all populations tend to decline as we age.  Those in the 20-25 year old age range can boast of an HRV score anywhere from 55-105, while those in the 60-65 range have scores ranging from 25-45.  While we cannot escape the inevitable decline of the ageing process, measuring HRV does provide us the opportunity to directly measure the impact of lifestyle choices on overall wellbeing.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, it is estimated that somewhere in the range of 80% of all diseases are linked to lifestyle choices, finally we have readily available technology to monitor the impact those choices make on our health.  I can’t think of a better investment than purchasing a device that will give you feedback in real time. Prices range from a simple chest strap model, costing roughly 65-80 dollars, up to stylish rings that will set you back as much as $300.00. A small investment in your health today may pay great dividends in the future. Be well and stay safe.  

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bio photo

Lieutenant Michael "Sporty" Kilbane

Michael Kilbane is a retired officer from the Cleveland Fire Department having served for over 35 years.

In that time, he has spearheaded many efforts to advance the betterment of the division through wellness initiatives and grants. He has also authored a pamphlet on maintaining back strength and health for firefighters.  Mr. Kilbane’s education includes an undergraduate degree in both Philosophy and Natural Health, along with master’s level coursework in both Physiology and Philosophy.  He is also a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is recognized through that organization as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. As a trained massotherapist, Mr. Kilbane has also witnessed literally first hand the damage done to first responders by over straining in some of the most hostile work environments. His most recent focus is utilizing kettle bells for functional training and is the author of The Athletes Ultimate Guide to Kettlebell Training.

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