Mya Stewart RN, BScN, BACYCHeartMath, Mind/Body, Stress

February is Heart Month! Heart Month was created by The Heart and Stroke Foundation and is a national, community-based fundraising campaign to bring awareness to heart disease and stroke. More information here:

At Connect Health, our team of practitioners often teach their patients about the risk factors for developing heart disease, and assist patients with existing heart disease to live longer, healthier lives.

Risk factors include:

–       Sedentary lifestyle

–       Being overweight

–       Smoking

–       Stress

–       Family history

–       High blood pressure

–       Excessive alcohol consumption

Heart disease and stroke take one life every 7 minutes

and 90% of Canadians have at least one risk factor

One lesser-known, but important risk factor for heart disease, is low heart-rate variability

What is Heart Rate Variability?

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is the variation in the time interval between one heartbeat and the next. These naturally occurring changes in heart rate are influenced by the two branches of the autonomic nervous system; the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.


HRV has been studied for over 30 years. It has been researched as a factor in heart health, diabetes, emotional health, stress, athletic performance, and fitness.

What affects HRV?

Age, gender, illness, fitness levels, stress and mental health all affect HRV. Chronic stress markedly decreases HRV, leading to health issues such as adrenal fatigue, brain fog and indigestion along with increased risk of heart disease. HRV can be gained or lost, and performing exercises or activities to increase HRV is an easy way to care for your heart and help prevent heart disease.

How is HRV measured?

HRV is measured using biofeedback devices. A non-invasive sensor is attached to the your ear, finger or chest. The pulse data is converted into HRV through a software program, which is then analyzed by a practitioner. Exercises can then be assigned to help you gain HRV.

What can you do to boost HRV?

1) Heartmath

Heartmath, a form of HRV biofeedback, is a simple, evidence-based and accurate way to measure baseline HRV and track progress over time. Your practitioner, who then acts as your HRV “personal trainer”, recommends exercises specifically designed to help you gain HRV.

2) Moderate exercise

While HRV can be temporarily reduced during exercise – especially intense exercise – it does help you gain HRV over time. The key is to not over train, keep exercise moderate or allow time for recovery between intense workouts.

3) Cold showers!

This seems like a strange one, but it’s true! Starting your day with a blast from a cold shower can help you gain and maintain HRV throughout your day.

4) Intermittent fasting

While the mechanisms are still under research, intermittent fasting has been shown to increase HRV. Intermittent fasting refers to an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It is recommended that you speak to your healthcare professional before making major changes to your diet.

5) Decreased alcohol intake.

Alcohol, especially in excess, decreases HRV so limiting or eliminating intake is recommended.

6) Breathing

Slow, deep breathing is a simple way to increase HRV and help lower heart rate and blood pressure. Taking a few minutes a day to focus on your breathing does wonders for your heart.

So, love your heart by gaining HRV!

For more information contact Mya Stewart, RN

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