Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the US; more than 800,000 people die of heart attacks alone each year. 1 in 3 deaths in the US are linked to heart disease in most statistical data reviewed. This vital organ is often neglected or inadvertently stressed with poor diet and lifestyle habits. Strokes, heart failure, and many other cardiovascular-related issues are all attributed to poor heart health. Worse yet, it is misunderstood as “only” a pump—when it has other key functions in our body.
Most everyone has heard: reducing cholesterol to healthy levels and maintaining healthy blood pressure are keys to good heart health. Less discussed is the role of Heart Rate Variability (HRV), the variation in time between each heartbeat, as a measure of health. Higher HRV is associated with decreased risks of heart attack, stroke and diabetes. And low cholesterol and blood pressure alone are not enough to maintain a healthy HRV because HRV is largely regulated by the balance of the autonomic nervous system. HRV used to only be measurable with an EKG; but many of today’s wearable fitness devices are accurate enough to give a reasonable estimate of HRV, especially those that have the ability to add data from a Holter monitor or finger sensor.
Yoga and tai chi have a long history of improving health and research is clear that both can directly improve HRV and coherence with consistent practice. Consistent quality sleep, limiting alcohol consumption, regular exercise, drinking adequate water, and focusing on eating real, fresh food with an emphasis on vegetables and healthy fats, also help protect heart health.
How else can you help maintain health HRV? Well, acupuncture has consistently been shown to improve HRV even when the focus of the treatment is on other complaints. When it is focused on regulating nervous system balance and heart function, it’s even more effective. Frequency Specific PEMF has also shown to regulate the autonomic nervous system and therefore HRV. Another great way to improve HRV through enhanced coherence is our equine programs. Just simply being in physical proximity to a horse has been shown to increase coherence and HRV. Add to that the benefits of the meditation and tai chi that we teach with the equine exercises, and you have tools to take home with you to continue to improve your heart health and well-being.
If you want to learn more about heart health I recommend the HeartMath Institute. They are a leading researcher in heart health and generous with their free products to support public health. They offer a number of free classes and publications to help people learn practices to improve their HRV and even have tools for sale to help them measure their progress. This link here is one of my favorite, 10 HeartMath Practices | HeartMath Institute.