Is Stress Affecting Your Health? Heart Rate Variability Can Identify Stress Related Symptoms

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1 Is Stress Affecting Your Health? Heart Rate Variability Can Identify Stress Related Symptoms

2 Table of Contents Stress Can Cause a lot of Symptoms...3 Stress is not always mental...3 How is an HRV test done?...4 My grass is cut...5 How do I Grow more Grass Stop Cutting Your Grass...6 The Stress Connection...7 What is Heart Rate Variability? Contrary to what most people believe, your heart does not beat in a consistent rhythm. As you can see in the example in Figure 1, the heart continually speeds up and slows down. This is because the heart is affected by two opposing nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) controls the fight or flight response (stress response). The parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), controls the rest and digest response. Figure 1 The SNS and the PSNS are constantly monitoring the external and internal environment and determining if the current situation requires our attention and action or is everything under control and the body can rest, digest food and absorb nutrients to repair and store energy for the next fight or flight situation. The body interprets anything that disrupts external or internal balance as a stress. Or anything that one perceives might disrupt their life (worry) as a stress. When the body perceives stress the SNS will dominate the PSNS, this change can be reflected in the HRV tracing. Stress causes illness and illness is a stress. HRV can identify stress that may lead to disease and identify illness before symptoms are obvious. 02

3 Stress Can Cause a Lot of Symptoms Symptoms Caused By Stress Skin Acne and other skin problems Brain and nerves Headaches, feelings of despair, lack of energy. sadness, nervousness, anger, irritability, increased or decreased eating, trouble sleeping, mental health problems (such as panic attacks, anxiety disorders and depression) Heart Faster heartbeat, rise in blood pressure, increased risk of high cholesterol and heart attack Pancreas Increased risk of diabetes Reproductive System For woman-irregular of more painful periods, reduced sexual desire. For men-imptence, lower sperm production, reduced sexual desire Immune System Lowered ability to fight or recover from illness Muscles and Joints Muscle aches and tension (especially in the neck, shoulders and back), increased risk of reduced bone density Stomach Nausea, stomach pain, heartburn, weight gain Intestines Diarrhoea, constipation and other digestive problem Studies show that 75%-90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related complaints or disorders. HRV allows the physician to identify if the patient s complaints are stress related. Stress is not to be taken lightly. As you can read in the book The Stress Connection, by Drs. Eldred and Ava Taylor, stress leads to illness. Unidentified and unrelieved stress can lead to premature death. HRV allows one to identify the body s earliest response to stress. HRV also allows the physician to determine if the treatment for the condition causing the stress response is effective because, improvement in the HRV is the first sign of recovery. Stress is Not Always Mental The body does not just react to mental stress with a change in HRV. The body responds to physical stress with the same change in HRV pattern. Physical stress is not just exercise. Physical stress is anything that disrupts balance or homeostasis. Just think of how your body reacts to an infection like the common cold. Your body heats up and your pulse goes up. The body is fighting a viral infection. This initiates the SNS (fight or flight) and suppresses the PSNS (rest and digest) One loses their appetite and has difficulty sleeping because the body has suppressed the PSNS and is busy fighting the infection. This is an obvious example. The HRV allows one to see more subtle signs of mental and physical disruption of homeostasis. HRV will be abnormal when there are obvious disruptions of homeostasis like a cold. However the real value of the HRV is its ability to detect the not so obvious disruption in homeostasis. These disruptions can range from a vitamin deficiency to an undiagnosed parasite infection. 03

4 How Is An HRV Test Done? Heart Rate Variability Homeostasis is a dynamic balance between the autonomic branches. Figure 2 The HRV test consists of measuring the time between each heartbeat. This will be recorded when you are lying down and when you are standing. The entire test takes approximately 5 minutes. The goal of the test is to see how dominant is the PSNS while you are lying down (a test of the rest and digest system). The second part of the test reflects how quickly and strongly does the sympathetic nervous system react to the stress of changing from a lying position to standing. Thirdly, how quickly does the body recover from the stress and the PSNS returns and balance is restored. What do all of the lines mean? In figure 2 you see that each heart beat varies in the time or distance between them. This represents the body making small adjustments to remain in balance. The more varied the heartbeat, the more prepared the body is to fight or flight or rest and digest when the time comes. If you take the lines that are drawn between each heart beat and turn them 90 degrees (vertically) a pattern is formed like the one in in figure 3. Long lines indicate large distances between heart beats. This means that the PSNS is activated. Short lines means short distances between heart beats. This means the SNS is activated. A healthy pattern looks like uncut grass. This means that the long lines are the most prominent but the SNS (the short lines) is available to quickly handle any minor problems. Rest and digest: Parasympathetic activity dominates If we take a closer look at the HRV rhythm strip area number one is recorded while the patient is lying down. As you can see there are predominantly long lines with areas of short lines. The pattern is varied. The more varied the pattern the better. The body is resting but prepared to handle a stress. The mid portion records the response to standing up. A change in position is a temporary stress to which the body has to adjust. Because the SNS was ready and waiting, (the short lines in the first section), the SNS springs into action and supress the PSNS. Now you see a non-varied section of short lines. This is the proper response to a temporary stress. Finally, the third section reveals how capable is the body to recover from the stress and allow the PSNS to return and restore the energy used during the stress and prepare for the next challenge Area 2 Area 1 Area 3 Figure 3 Fight or Flight: Sympathetic activity dominates 04

5 What Does an Abnormal HRV Mean? Now that you understand the test and what is normal, it is easy to understand what symptoms and conditions may be associated with an abnormal test. Remember 75%-90% of all complaints to primary care physicians are for stress related symptoms. Probably the most common two symptoms that I hear patients complain of is fatigue and difficulty sleeping. Let s evaluate an HRV that I normally see. Example 1 and 2. What is noticeable is that the rhythm strip does not look like uncut grass. This means that the rest and digest system is not activated when the patient is lying down. This can explain the patients difficulty sleeping. Also, if this pattern has persisted, the digestion system is not working well. This means food is not being adequately digested and nutrients may not be absorbed. The lack sleep and lack of nutrients will lead to fatigue. > Pupils dilate > Mouth goes dry > Neck & Shoulder muscles tense > Heart pumps faster > Chest Pains > Palpitations > Sweating > Muscles tense for action > Breathing fast & shallow hyperventilation > Oxygen needed for muscles FIGHT & FLIGHT Noticeable Effects Hidden Effects > Brain gets body ready for action > Adrenalin released > Blood pressure rises > Liver releases glucose to provide energy for muscles > Digestion slows or ceases > Sphincters close > Cortisol released to depress the immune system The next area that one should notice is there is not a dip in the middle of the rhythm strip. This indicates that there is a decreased ability to respond appropriately to the minor stress of standing. The SNS is not activated to any great degree. This would correspond with symptoms of lack of concentration, memory loss, and the inability to respond to the demands of life that were manageable in the past. The second example is indicative of a test that responds to the stress but does not recover quickly. A small stress activates the SNS and suppresses the PSNS for an inordinate amount of time. These patients will complain that the smallest stress causes them hours of anxiety. No Variability No Dip Rest Stress without Recovery Example 1. Notice how the lines are the same length, like a freshly cut lawn. Example 2. 05

6 How Do I Get My Grass To Grow? There is another part of this test, called the power spectrum. It indicates the power levels of the SNS and the PSNS. What is your nervous system s ability to respond when needed and rest, digest and repair when not needed. The answer lies in the total power (TP), high frequency (HF) and low frequency (LF). The (TP) number should be greater than a thousand when supine (lying down). High frequency (HF) should be at least half of the (TP). High frequency is the PSNS (rest and digest) this system should be dominant when lying down. Low frequency (LF) is the sympathetic nervous system. When lying down, (LF) should not be higher than (HF. When (TP) is low, under 1000, the power of the entire system needs to be increased. The nervous system operates through chemicals called neurotransmitters. These chemicals transmit messages between nervous system cells. These chemicals are produced from amino acids. Taking amino acids will increase the power of the SNS and the PSNS, which increases the total power. Also, the nervous system functions through electrical current. Taking minerals can also enhance the power of the nervous system. Think of amino acids and minerals as the seeds and fertilizer for your grass or nervous system. By taking amino acids and minerals you are restoring your ability to be more alert and better able to handle stress when needed. You are also enhancing your ability to rest. All restoration of energy and the creation of new healthy cells takes place during sleep. If you are not resting well this does not take place. If your digestion is poor, the body does not have the building blocks to restore energy or create new cells. This is why increasing the power of the PSNS is so important. How Do I Stop Cutting My Grass? The question is a metaphor for how do I increase the PSNS and decrease the SNS. This requires an effort from your healthcare provider and an effort from you. The healthcare provider should use your history, exam and results from in office and other lab test to determine what systems are out of balance or not functioning to the highest level. These tests may include testing the GI system, hormone balance, the detoxification system, allergy testing, etc. SNS Normal Abnormal PSNS As you can see in the image below some effort will be required by you the patient. You may have to make some diet and lifestyle changes. There may be some supplements that you will have to take. You may need IV nutrition to give the body what it needs more directly. The important points are that if stress is identified and there is a joint effort between the patient and the healthcare provider, true health (homeostasis) can be restored. 06

7 The Stress Connection Stress is a universal phenomenon, which affects millions of people each day. Its affects are far reaching and impact men and women of all ages. Stress related illnesses are linked to most physician visits each year and is responsible for countless sick days and absenteeism from work and school. The top ten leading prescription drugs in the United States are associated with stress related illnesses and Americans spend billions of dollars each year on prescription drugs. When stress related symptoms and the results of routine laboratory testing do not add up, symptom based medicine is the usual course of action. Multiple symptoms lead to multiple medications and unfortunately can lead to side effects and drug interactions. Routine laboratory testing is inadequate for identifying stress related illness; therefore, thousands go undiagnosed each year. This book will allow the reader to understand stress and how stress affects your health. Now you can be your own health advocate. The book will also assist the reader in taking steps to decrease stress and improve their health. Taylor MD Formulations was created by experienced functional medicine physicians to fill a much needed void in the nutraceuticals industry. Our mission is to design effective combination nutraceuticals which will increase compliance and improve clinical outcome. Our products are designed to aid and support the body s overall health and functioning. Healthier bodies are less likely to develop chronic illnesses or show signs of premature aging. We believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Taylor MD Formulations sets itself apart from other nutraceutical companies because it was born out of many years of physician knowledge, clinical experience and patient care. Taylor MD Formulations Look for these products at

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