What is a Heart Rate Variability Test?
Heart Rate Variability, or “HRV” is the measurement of the intervals between each heartbeat. When a person is in good health, there is normally a very small but detectable variability of time between each heartbeat. When we stop functioning optimally, this variability narrows and gradually becomes rigid.
The HRV test lasts about 8-9 minutes and is completely non-invasive and painless. A strap (just like an exercise heart rate strap) is placed around the chest that monitors 448 heartbeats and the intervals in between — the first half lying down on your back, and the second half standing. Heart Rate Variability is well researched and provides a quick and easy assessment of the Autonomic Nervous System function.
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What is the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)?
The Autonomic Nervous System is the part of our nervous system that controls the functions that we usually have no conscious control over but are essential for life that we can’t depend on us “remembering” to perform.
The ANS regulates the basic life-sustaining functions of the body such as the heart beat, heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, respiration, turning on and off the function of the cells, glands, and organs, maintaining acid/alkaline balance of the blood, saliva, and urine, digestion of food, balancing glandular functions, stimulating and inhibiting the body and its parts.
The Autonomic Nervous System is divided into two parts:
The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is our “arousal system.” It activates the “fight-or-flight” mechanism when the body detects danger. The Sympathetic Nervous System is like the “gas pedal” in your car.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS) controls “calming responses” such as sleep, relaxation and digestion. The parasympathetic nervous system works more at night, when the body needs to regenerate our cells and tissues for the next day. The Parasympathetic Nervous System is like the “brake pedal” in your car.
Both nervous systems are important, and they must be in balance at all times. In a healthy person, the SNS and PSNS are in balance. When we are not able to deal with stress in a constructive way, the SNS is often too high, and the PSNS is too low. Since the PSNS controls many systems in the body, then all of those systems are depressed and don’t function optimally.
Right in our office, we can quickly assess both parts of your autonomic nervous system. We can see how the patient’s basic physiology is working and how much of a “health savings account” is left in your body to help in times of need from illness, injury and stress. This guides us in how much nutritional therapy can be tolerated. As improvements are made in the autonomic nervous system, additional health strategies can be applied and will be more successful.
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What Does The Test Commonly Show in Patients?
What we see from this test time and time again are people whose SNS (gas pedal) is too high, meaning an inability to stay healthy in the face of stress, and whose PSNS (brake pedal) is too low, meaning that the systems of digestion, metabolism, elimination, etc., are depressed and not functioning as well as needed to promote health. If you have a depressed PSNS it doesn’t matter how hard you diet, or how many supplements you take or how much exercise you do. A depressed PSNS will get in the way of these things working optimally. In addition, a weak PSNS can often be a sign of needing adrenal nutrient support due to hidden stressors.
In addition to improvements in bloodwork and physical symptoms, all of our Nutrition Response Testing (NRT)™ patients undergo HRV testing as a initial baseline test, and then intermittently as they progress on their program towards health.
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