Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The "Spooky Science" of Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

Over at Track Your Plaque we are always pushing the envelope on heart disease prevention and reversal.  I have been in the program so long that (barring another ground breaking find of which there have been many over the years) I am near the end of what I can do physically.  However, I have always been intrigued by how the mind might be used to alter the body.

Throughout history there have been many wild claims of yogis and mystics doing incredible things with their minds and living to ripe old ages disease free so I have always kept on the look-out for some hard science to back it up.  But I am a skeptic and, like Houdini, skeptical of whether there was any scientific truth to the wild claims - until recently.

I started to read about findings that the heart and other organs have clusters of neuronal cells (rudimentary "brains") and independent nervous systems that interact with the brain.  In fact, the heart has been reclassified in some precincts as an endocrine organ because of research that indicates it produces hormones.  Sound a little spooky?  Hang on, it gets even spookier.  I have begun to uncover literature that suggests these "brains" in conjunction with the "master brain" in our heads can even alter the transcription of certain genes.  It does not change your DNA but the suggestion is that these "brains" can "order" the body to either up-regulate or down-regulate the production of specific proteins created by DNA, proteins that literally govern how our body behaves.

So where does HRV come in?  Recent research has revealed that the beat to beat variation in heart rate (the time between "T to T" peaks in the QRST waveform of a typical EKG) is an exquisitively sensitive measure of the functioning of the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), the two major components of our body-wide Central Nervous System (CNS).  In a nutshell, when all the body's "brains" are communicating coherently they exert minute variations in the heart rate.  However, in situations of stress or disease the heart essentially runs on auto-pilot with little beat to beat variation.

We were so intrigued at Track Your Plaque over the possibilities we approached the HeartMath people, the leaders in HRV monitoring, to provide us with their HRV product so we could put it to the test - and it did not disappoint.  Once again, I was the guinea pig.  The next few posts will chronicle my personal experience with the basic PC Desktop version of the HeartMath emWave HRV monitor and training device.

The graphic below illustrates my baseline HRV waveform and it is very instructive of what most people will experience.



Notice how choppy and irregular it is which is exactly how the HeartMath people said it would be for a "noob" like myself.  A "coherent" nervous system, with the brain in your head in coherence with the rest of the body's "mini-brains" produces a smooth, sinusoidal trace.  The HeartMath "emWave" device is essentially a training tool with a built-in "coherence coach" to help you practice reaching a coherent state )with multiple challenge levels (kind of like resistance training for the body.

After several sessions and a little frustration at not be able to instantly master it (what can I say, I'm impatient) I did indeed improve coherence - but that will be the subject of my next blog!

Looking out for your heart health,


HeartHawk

27 comments:

Sidney said...

Speaking of coherence, I am in need of finding 'it'.

I have nearly completed Dr. Davis' book, 'Wheat Belly', which seem to be an advanced version (i.e., no wheat/gluten, low GI foods) of the Atkins' protocol.

I followed Atkins, and saw impressive results in weight, and lipids. Then, I hit a plateau.

Eventually, I read, and became knowledgeable, of work by Dr. McDougall, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Fuhrman, et al, who promoted a no meat/oil/dairy vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, with research (besides 'The China Study') to back up their claims.

So, I switched to a vegetarian/vegan diet, and again had superb results; in fact, my lipid panels were even better than when on Atkins.

So, now, I read Dr. Davis' book, and the case he makes for wheat elimination makes sense, and is doable.

However, I, as a consumer, am frustrated, because I see one group of physicians, who espouse a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, achieving excellent results in weight loss, lipid profiles, plaque reversal, diabetes elimination, etc., WHILE ON THE OTHER HAND, I see a group of physicians, like Atkins, Dr. Davis, espouse a low carb/GI diet, which in turn produces the SAME results!!

Would you PLEASE explain why, and how, two different people, on two completely different diets (or the same person alternating between two completely different diets) can achieve the EXACT SAME weight loss results, the EXACT SAME lipid profiles, the EXACT SAME diabetes elimination, and the EXACT SAME elimination of arterial plaque?! This is so confusing for most of us out here in the trenches.

Thank you.

Sidney

sskipper @ ssidc. com

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Anonymous said...

Where di you go??? Are you still alive? are you o.k.? Can you please update your blog? Thanks

Oliver Magoo said...

HeartHawk is still alive. lol. He currently posts at the Track Your Plaque forum where he's an administrator. He's also a staff member at Cureality.

 
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