heart rate variability (HRV) monitoring for autism / anxiety

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MrsPeel
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15 Aug 2022, 7:18 pm

Hello all,

I've been looking for ways to predict when I'm likely to get a bad stress reaction or a meltdown. Now I've got myself a fitness tracker, it's a Fitbit Charge 5 and it has some functions that look promising.

One of the things it measures is heart rate variability (HRV) which is a measure of whether your nervous system is in balance. I noticed that my resting HRV is right at the bottom of the range for my age, which may be unhealthy. That means that my sympathetic system (the flight/fight response) is overactive, and/or my parasympathetic system (rest and digest) is underactive. Apparently this happens in many disease states but is also common with autism and mental health issues like anxiety disorders.

So what I'm wondering is whether anyone else here monitors there HRV and whether they have found it useful?



kraftiekortie
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15 Aug 2022, 7:45 pm

I have a Fitbit, and I monitor my Heart Rate Variability.

I haven’t really found it useful.



DanielW
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15 Aug 2022, 8:10 pm

I can measure my heart rate, but I have found that my heart rate doesn't begin to climb significantly until I am already severely stressed, so rather an being an early warning, it merely confirms what I already know...not helpful in my experience.



CockneyRebel
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15 Aug 2022, 8:10 pm

I'm thinking of getting myself a fitbit for the same reason amongst other things.


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shortfatbalduglyman
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15 Aug 2022, 10:09 pm

My medical record says 56 beats per minute. In parentheses it says (!)

I am 39

What is your resting heart rate?

56 bpm doesn't sound that low.

Might not have been measured correctly or a representative sample

Some people 40 bpm



MrsPeel
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18 Aug 2022, 5:19 pm

I should probably clarify, heart rate and heart rate variability are different. So yes, heart rate will climb just as we're about to have a meltdown, but it's possible that HRV will drop before then, giving us advance warning. I'm not sure though, I'm only just starting to look into it.

One thing that's puzzling me is how to judge whether ones HRV is normal or too low, as there don't seem to be many charts around, and some of them measure it in different ways. Like sometimes they just use a 5 minute measurement, which will give different results to the overnight measurement I get from the Fitbit. And I've read that the measurement on the wrist is less accurate than, say, chest monitors. At first I thought my reading was too low but now I'm not so sure and I don't know how much I can rely on it.

All I know so far is that yesterday, for example, my HRV dropped to 25 ms, and that corresponded to me feeling a bit under the weather. Today it's risen back up to 28 and feeling a little better.

Anyone else got any measurements they could share?



r00tb33r
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18 Aug 2022, 5:30 pm

This is very interesting, this is exactly what my cardiologist observed during a very bad anxiety crisis. An irregularity in the heartbeat.

But doesn't it become like that when you're already having anxiety? So won't that be too late?


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MrsPeel
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18 Aug 2022, 6:24 pm

Ah no, it's the other way around.

When the HRV is too low, that means our heartbeat is too regular, and that actually means our nervous system is out of balance.

In a healthy nervous system, the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems are always pulling against each other, which leads to tiny variations in the interval between heartbeats (HRV). This means that the body is prepared to deal with any stress that arises.

When the HRV is low and the heartbeat is "too regular", that means we might have trouble dealing with and recovering from any stress.

But that's from measurement of resting HRV. I'm not sure what happens actually during the anxiety episode itself.



MrsPeel
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18 Aug 2022, 6:29 pm

Sportspeople use HRV to check for overtraining or illness.
They monitor is every day and if it starts to drop that means they need to ease up on the training as their body is stressed, or is fighting off an infection.

So my idea is to see if I can use it to monitor my internal stress and anxiety and potentially just take a day off or something when it drops, to avoid spiralling into a meltdown.