Heart Rate Variability Normal Range

HRV is highly individualized, with differences linked to factors such as age, gender, physical fitness level, and overall health. Furthermore, HRV fluctuates daily due to a variety of factors including stress levels, sleep patterns, workload, and physical activity. Consequently, defining a universal “good” HRV range is challenging. Nonetheless, the significance of HRV as a key indicator of health and well-being cannot be overstated, particularly when considering personal baselines and daily variations. [1], [2], [8]

What is a good heart rate variability range?

A heart rate variability normal range for adults can extend from below 20 to over 70 milliseconds at rest, as measured by the RMSSD parameter [4]. However, it’s crucial to remember that heart variability rate can vary significantly among individuals, influenced by factors like age, gender, fitness, and overall health. For instance, young athletes at rest may exhibit variability exceeding 200 milliseconds.

As we age, our HRV score tends to decrease, a trend linked to the autonomic nervous system’s dysfunction and the aging cardiovascular system, raising the risk of chronic health conditions. A good heart rate variability chart by age and gender is discussed below.

Heart rate variability chart by age

While HRV naturally decreases with age due to factors like the stiffening of arteries and degeneration of the nervous system, lifestyle factors and diseases also play a significant role. Unhealthy habits and conditions such as decreased physical activity, poor diet, stress, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption, as well as diabetes, hypertension, and heart conditions, can exacerbate HRV decline [5]. Conversely, a healthy lifestyle and regular exercise can improve HRV and mitigate cardiovascular aging.

Data from the Autonomic Aging dataset [3], [6] shows a marked decline in HRV after age 40, although mean heart rate remains relatively unchanged across age groups. The average PNS index shifts from positive to negative at age 40, indicating decrease in parasympathetic nervous system activity.

 

HRV chart by age groups:

Mean heart rate (HR) by age
Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) index by age
HRV normal range

Heart rate variability chart by Gender

In general, the impact of gender on HRV is less pronounced than that of age. Most of the research studies are showing females having a higher average resting heart rate than males. Gender differences in resting HRV are varied, but these distinctions tend to diminish in older age groups.

The Autonomic Aging dataset illustrates that females typically have a somewhat higher resting heart rate until the age of 40-45 and often show higher RMSSD values across most age groups, though the differences become negligible with advancing age. This information provides insights into good heart rate variability across different genders and age groups.

 

HRV chart by gender and age:

Mean heart rate (HR) by gender and age
Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) index by gender and age
Heart rate variability (RMSSD) by gender and age

What is a good HRV while sleeping?

In general, heart rate is low and heart rate variability is high during nighttime. During sleep, the parasympathetic nervous system activity dominates, lowering heart rate, body temperature, and relaxing muscles. Our heart rate while sleeping can be 20-30% below the resting HR measured during daytime.

Higher HRV during nighttime has been linked to deeper sleep stages, while during REM sleep increased sympathetic activity may lower HRV [9]. If variability of heart rate is abnormally low at night, it is an indication of poor sleep quality and possible sleep disorder. [7]

Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)

What is a dangerously low HRV?

A single instance of low HRV shouldn’t immediately cause concern since HRV naturally varies day-to-day due to different stressors. However, consistently low HRV over an extended period might indicate a higher risk for potential health issues. It’s crucial to monitor HRV trends over time rather than react to one-off readings. At least for young adults, PNS index below -2 or RMSSD below 10 milliseconds may be considered abnormally low HRV.

 

Why is my HRV so high all of a sudden?

A sudden increase in resting HRV can be due to positive changes such as stress management, quality sleep, hydration, healthy eating, and regular exercise. While occasional HRV fluctuations are normal and consistently high HRV often signifies better cardiovascular health or general well-being, unusually high HRV could also suggest an abnormal heart rhythm or arrhythmia, warranting attention to extreme HRV values.

 

Why is my HRV naturally low?

Factors like health conditions, aging, certain medications, genetics, and lifestyle choices may all contribute to naturally low HRV. Each of these elements can impact the autonomic nervous system differently, affecting heart rate variability.

 

Can HRV indicate heart problems?

Abnormally high or low HRV can signal heart issues. Arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation may increase HRV, while chronic cardiovascular conditions often reduce it. HRV naturally fluctuates due to stressors; thus, a single low reading could result from poor stress management or inadequate recovery, addressable through lifestyle adjustments.

References

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    3. A. Goldberger, L. Amaral, L. Glass, J. Hausdorff, P.C. Ivanov, R. Mark, … & H.E. Stanley. PhysioBank, PhysioToolkit, and PhysioNet: Components of a new research resource for complex physiologic signals.Circulation [Online]. 101 (23), pp. e215–e220, 2000.
    4. D. Nunan, G.R.H. Sandercock, and D.A. Brodie. A Quantitative Systematic Review of Normal Values for Short-Term Heart Rate Variability in Healthy Adults. PACE, 33(11):1407-1417, 2010.
    5. M.P. Tarvainen, T.P. Laitinen, J.A. Lipponen, D.J. Cornforth, and H.F. Jelinek. Cardiac autonomic dysfunction in type 2 diabetes – effect of hyperglycemia and disease duration. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 5(Article 130):1–9, 2014.
    6. A. Schumann & K. Bär (2021). Autonomic Aging: A dataset to quantify changes of cardiovascular autonomic function during healthy aging (version 1.0.0). PhysioNet. https://doi.org/10.13026/2hsy-t491.
    7. P.K. Stein & Y. Pu. Heart rate variability, sleep and sleep disorders. Sleep Med Rev, 16:47-66, 2012.
    8. Task force of the European society of cardiology and the North American society of pacing and electrophysiology. Heart rate variability – standards of measurement, physiological interpretation, and clinical use. Circulation, 93(5):1043–1065, March 1996.
    9. E. Vanoli, P.B. Adamson, Ba-Lin, G.D. Pinna, R. Lazzara, and W.C. Orr. Heart rate variability during specific sleep stages. Circulation, 91:1918-1922, 1995.