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  • Writer's pictureDr David Hopper

Case study: HRV with Heather

My patient, Heather, has been tracking HRV everyday since beginning her chiropractic therapy for her shoulder concerns. I set her up with the Optimal HRV app and Kyto device.

It’s been a great study watching Heather’s HRV progression on a daily basis, there have been some ups in her readings (that’s great!), and there’s been some downs (not so good), but we found that there is always some reasoning behind it. As a healthcare practitioner it makes you ask ‘what are we affecting in this person's life?’ and ‘how does this play out from a HRV monitoring perspective?’

When Heather first started she had a pretty consistent (RMSSD) number and was in the mid-upper 20’s on a regular basis. She takes her HRV reading first thing, as soon as she wakes up at 5:15am, and then heads to her 6am cross fit class. Due to this consistency from the start when Heather’s HRV results would drop it was easy to spot that something was going on.

Heather didn’t find it difficult to take her reading every morning, she confirmed that the device is very quick and easy to use, the reading is only 3 minutes so she treats this time as a mini self-reflection period before her day gets started.

As a health practitioner, I scroll through my list of patients at two separate times each morning to check how everyone is doing. This means if I spot something is off (due to their low HRV reading), I can text and check how that patient is doing, and offer advice if they need it. When your HRV is down, we know that means your reaction time is down, which is something worth noting when you’re taking part in something as physically intense as cross fit. You can check on the state of your autonomic nervous system (ANS) before you push too hard and later regret it.

Heather uses the low HRV reading to make her decision about whether it’s a good idea to go to the cross fit class that day. Or if Heather feels like it’s a good idea to go in for her mental state, she knows to scale back during the class to keep looking after her mind and body.

With this HRV monitoring and change of habits, Heather has found that her HRV has been improving over time, and started reading 30s and 40s each morning. However, her readings did drop again when her and the family weren't feeling too well, and she started going back to work as a teacher's aid for children with behavioral issues. Safe to say stress levels were on the rise.

With illness being such a stressor on our nervous system, it was no surprise that her HRV trend was temporarily on the decline. It's also worth noting that when we have a lower functioning nervous system (demonstrated by a lower than normal HRV reading), we know our immune system isn’t functioning as well, so a lot of times we can see some sort of illness start to emerge.

Using HRV to test dietary changes

Heather also wanted to use HRV to test some areas of her diet. When she had been drinking wine she found that she had quite a bad reaction, even 12 hours after the fact, as her body struggles to break down the alcohol (this is even after just 1 or 2 glasses). At the same time, she found her HRV reading would be low. In fact, after an accidental double dose margarita, Heather woke up to a reading of 11 one morning. Her lowest reading to date!

However, with testing her diet along with a natural antioxidant supplement she found her ability to recover from even the slightest bit of alcohol consumption had improved, and that her HRV results were much better. Heather was delighted to see that the supplements were in fact working and also affecting her ANS in such a positive way.

With consistent Optimal HRV readings, testing supplements and foods, adjusting training patterns and keeping an eye on HRV trends, Heather knows how to better look after her overall health each day.

From a healthcare perspective, practitioners can form a very good connection with their patients using the Optimal HRV device and web dashboard. Heather first came in for a shoulder concern, but I was able to help her health beyond this initial symptom. I believe every healthcare practitioner should treat their patients in this way for the most effective outcomes of care. Don’t forget, your patient is more than just a shoulder!

If you'd like to listen to the full interview with Heather, click here to check out our latest podcast.

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