Health is essential for wellbeing, no one would argue with that. But how healthy can a person be if they have regular headaches? Or fatigue? You may feel unwell even if your medical tests say everything is ok. So what’s the secret?
Health can be measured
Health is the body’s ability to adapt to the changing environment. The body is considered strong if it adapts to various changes in the environment and the person’s state of health stays the same.
A brief introduction to anatomy just to understand how it all works.
Our body’s reaction to external factors is controlled by the autonomic nervous system. It makes the heart beat and internal organ muscles contract. That is why we don’t think about breathing or digesting.
The autonomic nervous system has the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions. The former is like the accelerator pedal. The latter – the brake pedal. If a person is healthy the functioning of the two divisions is balanced.
But if they fall ill, the sympathetic branch starts to prevail which tips the balance and disrupts the blood circulation and the functioning of all the organs. The person gets tired quicker.
The autonomic nervous system is a complex biocomputer which continually collects data about the state of the person’s health.
You can obtain these data if you pay attention to heart performance. More specifically, the RR interval that is assessed using the heart rate variability index.
What is heart rate variability?
Heart rate variability analysis involves measuring intervals between heart beats in milliseconds It reflects the state our body is in: either exhausted and not being able to restore energy or adapted to everyday activities.
For example, high heart rate variability shows that the heart is healthy. Low heart rate variability means that the heart and the nervous system are overstrained.
The index changes depending on how active we are and how much pressure the body experiences. There are different factors: respiration, state of health, hormones. The way we use our energy – it can be physical or mental activity or simply letting out your feelings – is also important.
Even the position of the body changes heart rate variability. It is the result of our body’s adaptation to the external and internal environment.
Heart rate variability has been studied for as long as 50 years. It all started with space medicine, where this method was used to monitor astronauts’ health.
In the 60s, R.M. Baevsky, PhD, developped the heart rate variability analysis method.
Roman Markovich Baevsky, Doctor of Medicine, Professor, Honoured Scholar of the Russian Federation, Member of the International Academy of Astronautics, Member of the International Informatization Academy, Chief Research Fellow at the Institute For Biomedical Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Prof. Baevsky is one of the founders of aerospace cardiology.
He took part in preparing the first animal and human space flights. He developed a system of medical control during the preparation of Yuri A. Gagarin’s spaceflight and took part in the creation of onboard equipment for the Vostok spacecraft.
Roman Markovich has also worked for NASA, where he researched the impact of long-duration space travel on respiratory and heart performance.
The main tool for this analysis was heart rate variability (HRV). The results helped understand how the cardiovascular system endures zero gravity.
HRV helped scientists learn the body’s reaction to returning to Earth, how much the body’s functions are decreased as well as the potential heart malperformance.
When Prof. Baevsky learnt about Welltory, he shared his story about developing the first heart rate sensor analogue. It was a portable computer and a heart rate variability monitor. It was small enough to examine a person on site.
Yuri Gagrin measuring his heart rate variability.
Prenosological diagnostics by professor R.M. Baevsky
Roman Markovich developed a new approach to assessing health using heart rate variability analysis, a prenosological diagnosis method. Today, this type of diagnostics is included in the concept of health that is being developed by the Russian Ministry of Health.
The system analyses the intermediate phase between an illness and a healthy state. It’s the signs that allow you to see and prevent diseases early on.
During this intermediate phase the body doesn’t malfunction. However, energy consumption and the strain on regulatory systems is increased. It is harmful, because the body uses its stored resources and the immune system gradually weakens.
Doctors usually overlook the prenosological phase during periodic preventive checkups.
It can be very well controlled by improving your lifestyle. But if a person misses intermediate signs and falls ill, their body’s functional state deteriorates. Adaptation mechanisms fail and it becomes hard to revive them.
The global community confirms the method’s effectiveness
Western scientists, in particular, the The Finnish Research Institute for Olympic Sports, have also researched heart rate variability. Firstbeat is now using the results in their work.
The company has developed a program that tracks stress level changesa and analyses training efficiency and recovery period duration.
The method helps professional trainers see how hard athletes train. It also helps detect whether there is a risk of overtraining when perparing for the Olympic Games.
After 20 years of heart rate research we can now transform the data into clear and useful information.
It is done by mathematical modelling of complex physiological signals.
Heart rate variability analysis is a popular method used in many clinical medicine fields. The results of this research include thousands of lab assessments. The method has been studied outside labs too and is recognized as objective.
The method’s use for Welltory
Diagnostics continues to develop. There is ongoing research on the wellbeing and productivity of people who are not professional athletes or astronauts. The European Society of Cardiology and the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology have developed standards of measurements, interpretation and clinical use of the heart rate variability method. The results were published in the European Heart Journal (Vol.17, March 1996: 354-381) and Circulation (Vol. 93, March 1996: 1043-1065).
Today, every person can find out their energy resources. More than that, you don’t need to go to a doctor for that.
We are living in the era of telemedicine.
You can measure your heart rate variability using heart rate sensors while doing your everyday activities. And everybody can afford that.
Cardiac monitoring can be used during exercise as well as during your usual daily activities. Small and cheap devices collect heart performance and the autonomic nervous system status data.
But there is another question left, how to analyse all these data? A regular person without medical education won’t be able to understand what HRV test results mean.
But there is a solution to this problem.
Welltory — a personal health analyst in your pocket. It is the joint work of artificial and human intelligence. You get not only mathematically accurate results, but also emotional support and recommendations from our experts and analysts.
Measurements help us know your:
- heart rate
- heart rate variability
- stress level
- energy level
Pulse 86 bpm
20:13, 12 March 2016
Duration: 1 min
Welltory app can receive data from your iPhone camera or heart rate sensors. For example, this heart rate sensor with an ear clip developed by Welltory, or the Polar H7 chest strap (you can find out which devices we support here).
If you track your heart performance regularly you will always stay up to date on your health status.
It will help you prevent diseases, boost your productivity and reduce stress. Which means you will improve your life.