top of page

How To Improve HRV

How To Improve Heart Rate Variability (HRV):


In general, aiming for a higher HRV than our current baseline or maintaining our baseline is what we will all be doing.  That includes gaining balance between the two parts of the autonomic nervous system as well as improving nervous system function as a whole.


For each "improve" or "avoid" items below, I will give a very brief explanation.  If you would like further information please check out HRVuniversity to learn more.  


Research supporting each of these items can be found on the "Publications" page of this site. 


Ways to Improve HRV:


  • Sleeping:  High quality, suffient sleep will increase HRV and is the most important thing you can do for your health! But, the first two words are key.  High quality; sleep must cycle through all stages of sleep and spend the appropriate amount of time in each of the four stages.  Many people rarely, if ever enter deep sleep, or REM sleep.  Sufficient sleep means you sleep long enough for you.  Everyone will be different, but most of us fall in the 7-9 hour range.  If one of those two things isn't happening you will wake up feeling tired, groggy and require stimulants (coffee, soda, energy drinks, etc) all day.  If that is you, have a sleep study performed.

  • Proper nutrition:  Nutrition is the second most important thing you can do for overall health and raising your HRV. A proper diet that helps decrease inflammation (such as; paleo, keto, Whole 30, etc) will increase your bodies function in every way.  This of course includes HRV.  

  • Fasting:  Ironically, the lack of nutrition is also very healthy for us.  To say it better, caloric restriction is very healthy for us.  Doing regular fasting days or partial days actually has very profound benefits to our health and HRV.  

  • Exercise:  Regular exercise is another thing that is amazing for every aspect of health and hence, HRV.  Regardless of your condition, there is exercise that is appropriate for you.  Find something you like and do it! 

  • ​Breathing (intentional):  Deep, controlled breathing will increase your HRV.  Breathing in stimulates the sympathetic (gas pedal) nervous system, exhaling stimulates the parasympathetic (brake pedal) nervous system.  Controlling and lengthening the breathing process stimulates overall function and raises HRV.

  • Chiropractic:  Chiropractic adjustments have been found to increase HRV both in the short and long term.  A chiropractic adjustment is a large amount of proprioceptive input to the central nervous system.  This causes a parasympathetic (brake pedal) stimulation in most people.  The release of nervous system interference/tension aka spinal subluxations helps the body communicate better and this helps function of the nervous system and health overall.

  • Meditation:  Setting aside time for yourself, resting your mind, being still and intentionally letting go are some of the best ways to ease away stress.  Meditation is a great way to do all of these things and this will increase HRV. 

  • Being in nature:  Being in nautre, breathing fresh air, seeing natural things and connecting with your planet will calm your body and raise your HRV. 

  • Doing things that make you happy:  Fullfillment and doing things that make your heart happy will raise your HRV.  If you enjoy golfing, do it!  It will make you healthier (assuming you avoid drinking during it). 

  • Friend/family time:  Just like the above, spending time with people that make us happy will rasie your HRV.  

  • Practice forgiveness:  If you are hanging on to anger in any area of your life, let it go.  Forgiving the person, situation or whatever it may be will aleivate stress for you, make you happier and raise you HRV. 

  • Happy work place:  Our jobs are the place we spend most of our lives.  If your at a job you hate, work with negative people or just aren't happy; QUIT!  Find a job that makes you smile everyday!



Things to Avoid (that lower HRV):


  • Poor nutrition/ inflammation:  Poor nutrition equals lots of inflammation globally in your body.  Inflammation is the bad guy behind ALL pain and disease.  The most effective way to control inflammation naturally is by reducing inflammatory sources in your diet.  A poor diet and inflammation will lower your health and HRV. 

  • Smoking:  Smoking anything brings carcinogens into the body.  This will cause irritaiton to the throat and lungs.  It will cause inflammation that will lead to a decreased HRV and the breakdown of health.  

  • Drugs:  Drugs, perscription or otherwise put a LARGE strain on our bodies and aside from the array of possible side effects, HRV will also drop.  *The exception is some perscription drugs and OTC drugs that will artificially raise your HRV.  Don't be fooled.  The drugs are only covering a problem.   

  • Alcohol:  Alcohol is a toxin that the body must deal with. This is a negative strain on the system and will lower HRV.  After a night of only two to three drinks you will be shocked how much your HRV drops.

  • Environmental toxins:  Air and water pollution are the big ones here.  Be sure you spend most of your time in an area with clean, fresh air.  Almost all city water has percription medications in it that can't be filtered out.  This includes largely estrogen and anti-depressants.  Farm runoff often gets into wells in rural areas too. Test your water and get a whole house filter!

  • Electromagnetic Fields (EMF's):  EMF's are given off from anything with a battery or electricity.  Major electronics are the worst to be around constantly.  Living near a power plant or power lines is especially bad as well. EMF's lower our HRV and our threshold to poor health. 

  • Taking on too many tasks:  Overdoing it mentally or physically will simply beat you down and you will end up with poor performance globally.  This weighs on you and it shows with a low HRV. 

  • Overtraining:  Exercising too much is the physical side of overdoing it.  You will get injured and or perform poorly.  

  • Worrying:  Just let it go.  Hanging on to anger or frustration from a situation will only tear down your health in the long run.  Practice forgiveness and watch your HRV climb.


Other Factors:

  • Age:  As we age our HRV will naturally drop.  That is until about age 70 when it will begin to climb again.  

  • Gender:  Men tend to have a higher HRV than women. Men have a lower resting heart rate which naturally allows for greater variation.  However, women have higher vagal tone, and that makes them pretty darn great! 

  • Genetics:  We all have 23 pairs of genes that may determine some of our health.  However, we know that epigenetics, the way your environment impacts those genes is far more important.  Living a healthy lifestyle will more often than not out-work "bad genes".  

  • **Impotant note, high aerobic fitness levels are more important than age or gender factors** 


Vagal Nerve Stimulation:

  • Bioelectronic medicine:  This is a newer area of medicine emerging with a new spin on technology.  It is being found that stimulation of the nerves directly with electricity can produce much faster results than drugs, and lack the side effects of drugs.  In particular, stimulation of the vagus nerve is becoming a very hot topic as it is almost a "cure all".  This can be done with implantable devices or external devices. 

  • Vagal Manuevers:  These are an array of "tricks" to stimulate the vagus nerve naturally.  

bottom of page