A lot of people think their heart beats at the same rate all the time….but it doesn’t. We get the impression that it’s unchanging because when we take our pulse we normally take it for a minute and average it, but it’s not that simple.
We had spoken in an earlier blog that even the simple act of moving changes pretty much everything in your body including your HR
“So here’s how it works: You’re reasonably relaxed, watching some TV, and your heart is beating at 72 beats per minute. Suddenly you hear a bang (it’s probably just the kids but you’d better check). You climb the stairs your pulse quickens slightly as you go (you tell yourself that you really must get more exercise). By the time you’re at the top you may be working at 110 beats per minute. That’s not a problem. That’s exactly what’s supposed to happen. Your heart adjusts to the new demands but so does your blood pressure, digestion, temperature, sweat, breathing etc. You shout at the kids and go back down again. When you get back to the couch you settle back in, probably grunt or sigh as you expel air” and you return everything to an unstressed balance (homeostasis/allostasis).
This is the scenario we are all familiar with and any stressor (internal, perceived or external) will result in us adjusting something to deal with it more efficiently.
So with heart rate we can easily see
- Increases and decreases due to an internal stressor
- Increases and decreases due to a perceived stressor
- Increases and decreases due to an external stressor
- Increases and decreases due to blood pressure
- Increases and decreases due to breathing
But here’s the kicker, they are all causing the heart rate to increase and decrease at different times. It’s like listening to an orchestra where all the members are tuning up and playing something different, a cacophony. Here comes the conductor, she says to everyone, follow my lead and play together.
Our equivalent of the conductor is your breathing. If we can teach you to breath at your pace (between 4.5 and 7 breaths per minute), you become the conductor and everything starts to play together. Your heart rate starts to swing dramatically at a regular rate.
In the next installment I’ll explain a bit more