Friday, October 10, 2014

Heart Rate Variability's Effect on Balance

News Brief by Lushna Mehra

Recent studies have concluded that heart rate variability (HRV) and its levels are able to predict the presence of heart related illnesses, like congestive heart failure.  It appears that a varied amount of time between heartbeats is actually beneficial to maintaining homeostasis, or balance, in the complex human system.  This idea of a give-and-take relationship to achieve homeostasis relates to the mathematical concept of the control theory.  Caltech researchers wrote in the August 19th issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences about the relationship between HRV and health by studying 5 healthy young athletes.  Professor John Doyle and his team measured heart rate, respiration rate, oxygen consumption, and carbon dioxide production in these athletes during exercise.  Using the collected data, the team attempted to name the tradeoffs of maintaining proper vitals.  For instance, HRV exists to ensure that blood requirements throughout the body are met and that blood pressure and oxygenation remain within healthy ranges in response to exercise.  Once the control theory was applied to this study, it was concluded that the HRV is integral to bodily homeostasis during exercise and without variability there is fatigue. Doyle relates this idea to a robotic car that must adjust its acceleration, braking, and steering in response to traffic conditions; however, failure to do so results in a crash.  Likewise, the absence of heart rate variability during exercise prevents the body from having adequate oxygen levels, blood flow, and leads to a bodily ‘crash.’  Similar studies hope to be conducted in the future in order to apply the control theory to cancer to learn ways in which to treat it.  Thus, heart rate variability plays an essential role in maintaining balance in the complex system that is the human body. 

California Institute of Technology. "Variability in heart beat keeps the body in balance." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 September 2014. .

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