What is Heart Rate Variability (HRV)?

What is Heart Rate Variability (HRV)?

Heart Rate Variability or HRV is the variation of timing between your heart beats.  

While it may be logical to think that timing variation between heartbeats can be a bad thing (which in extreme cases it can be), in the context of these subtle changes I’m referring to, having a higher HRV score is indicative of a well functioning nervous system.  

What we can expect in someone with a normally functioning nervous system is healthy variation between heart beats that can actually be tracked in accordance to the pace and style of the breath.  In a well regulated person, a typical out breath is shown to release neurotransmitters and hormones associated with relaxation, calmness and rest such as oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, and acetylcholine.

Conversely, a typical in-breath triggers a slight release of cortisol and adrenaline, meant to speed the body up.

A well regulated nervous system with a healthy heart rate variability demonstrates a balance of these neurotransmitters and hormones, with the ability to increase and decrease regulation as needed.  In someone with a dysregulated nervous system, they often find themselves stuck in either direction, causing distress and reflecting a low variability between heart beats.  

What HRV training is aimed to do is train the patient to regain control of their nervous system by making slight variations in the pace and timing of the breath, which is measured using our biofeedback technology.  

This can be especially helpful for people experiencing high anxiety, panic attacks, and PTSD.  

HRV training serves as a very helpful and easy addition to a comprehensive treatment plan to address a variety of psychiatric problems.

Learn more about how we utilize Biofeedback at Philadelphia Integrative Psychiatry

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John Guardiani, MA, LPC

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