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id="article-body" class="row" section="article-body" data-component="trackCWV">                                              (image:  )                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Living through a  has taken a toll on your stress levels and sleep quality, which not only makes you feel run down and tired, but it can also having lasting negative impacts on your health. Poor sleep and high levels of stress can lower your , which is gaining attention as a key health stat we should all be tracking.<br>"Heart rate variability is exactly what it says -- it's the variation in the timing of the heartbeat beat to beat." says , a cardiologist at Denver Heart. HRV is measured in a number of different ways, but popular fitness and sleep trackers like , , and  are among the easiest ways to track it. <br><br>Why should you care about HRV? For starters, "there's a variety of data that shows people with lower heart rate variability do worse in a variety of ways. Their fitness performance is worse. They have increased adverse health outcomes, including cardiovascular deaths, myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) and strokes," says Dr. Mehta.  <br><br>HRV can tell you a lot about your sleep, stress and overall health, making it an important metric to understand. That said, lots of things can affect your HRV numbers, including your workouts, your diet and whether or not you're sick. For that reason, understanding how sleep and stress can affect HRV can help you prevent potential health issues that are linked to poor sleep, and mismanaged or chronic stress. <br>What influences HRV?<br>HRV is closely connected to your nervous system, which involves a lot of other important health factors, like sleep and stress. To understand HRV a bit better, you need to look at how the nervous system functions, since factors that affect the nervous system also affect HRV. <br>                                                                                                                                                                                                                How the nervous system works <br><br>The autonomic nervous system consists of the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems. The sympathetic side takes over, "when we're under physical duress, increased stress, depressed, we don't sleep as well or have increased alcohol intake. Our sympathetic nervous system becomes overactive, which then decreases our heart rate variability," explain Dr. Mehta. <br><br>The parasympathetic system is activated when you're more relaxed, well rested, in shape and in overall better health (physically and mentally.) "And that is when we see increased heart rate variability," says Dr, Mehta. <br><br>Low HRV can be caused by these factors, according to Dr. Mehta:<br>Increased stressPoor sleepDepressionPoor dietSubstance abuse<br>High HRV is linked to the following factors, according to Dr. Mehta:<br>Being physically fitGood blood pressureGood dietAdequate sleepDecreasing alcohol and substance use
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