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What is heart rate variability?
Ask the doctor
Q. In last month's Heart Letter, you described some of the ways your heart rate reflects your health. But I've also heard about another measurement, called heart rate variability. Can you explain what that's all about?
A. Heart rate variability (HRV) is a sophisticated measurement of the variation in time between each heartbeat. We know that a heart rate that's too slow, too fast, or irregular can signal a problem, so it's only natural to think that a steady, regular pulse is a sign of a healthy heart. And you might also assume that having little or no difference in the time between each beat (that is, a low HRV) is best.
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