However, in the process of wearing the strap I discovered features that were useful for helping with more than just weight loss.
Fixing High blood pressure
There are many reasons for high blood pressure. One may blame it on poor dietary habits, obesity, kidney problems, medication, lack of exercise, and few hundred others. Every single one of these have their part in wrecking our hearts, but none is as detrimental to the cardiovascular system as chronic stress.
My experience as a doctor taught me that although people can judge their general stress level, they have really hard time identifying specific sources of the stress. This is where FitBit comes in.
Discovering sources of chronic stress
Life is unpredictable, stress is unavoidable. It is going to happen sooner or later, but when…? The answer is easier than you think.
Stress is reflected in heart rate. Since stress speeds up heart action it is easy to see why people under major stress experience heart racing. That’s true, provided that meds don’t get in the way. Meds can mask our physiological responses and prevent us from seeing underlying health issues.
If you lead a relatively sedentary life your heart rate should not do somersaults. Unless you engage in physical activities there should not be any sudden heart rate spikes. These indicate stress.
Playing stress detective
Since FitBit has a feature that allows for continuous pulse monitoring, discovering the source of stress is as easy as glancing on the smartphone screen and detecting spikes. How did your exam go? How did you manage during the presentation? How about nerve-racking discussion with the boss at 3pm?
Tracking heart rate and matching it to your whereabouts can be quite insightful. Are you stressed all day long or just when you work on a specific project? Are your rushed mornings contributing to quicker beats or it is your junk food that causes that mysterious “heart”burn?
Your “detectivism” may find not one but multiple sources of stress and they may be rather surprising. You may discover that it is a specific place, person, food, job, or a situation that causes discomfort.
Reducing hidden stress
Once you track down the stressor all you need to do is to figure out how to eliminate it. You can ask to work on a different project, avoid highways while going to work, eat in a different restaurant, order from a different menu, have meetings in the mornings instead of evenings, and if necessary even consider changing your job.
These are immediate actions you can take to reduce the stress load while designing a plan to permanently calm down the nervous system. But why should you even bother?
Lower heart rate, longer life
Heart rate is an excellent health tracker. Resting heart rate is tied to cardiovascular fitness and some researchers suggest it can predict longevity. Ability to relax and recover from stress has been shown to parallel better health and uncomplicated longer live.
According to “The New England Journal of Medicine” heart rate should drop 12 beats or more within the first minute after ending a stressful event, in that study they used exercise as the stressor. Not that you should get obsessed with minute-to-minute heart beats, but the moral of the story is sound. Healthy people see a dramatic drop of heart rate within the first few minutes after ending a stressful event (whether exercise or no). People with compromised health don’t.
Fast recovery is the key
Heart rate graphs can be insightful. It is easy to see if you bring your work stress home or if the traffic jam on the way home affects you for the rest of the evening.
I love my FitBit for that. It can tell how good I am at calming down. In other words it shows how long it takes to slow down my accelerated pulse. The shorter it takes the sharper my abilities to cope with stress, better cardiovascular fitness, and higher chances for longevity.
Your heart is not any different than my heart. Understanding how much stress you personally experience and how it affects the body is a major step towards your health improvement. If you can see major spikes on the graph that are not related to physical activity or worse, heart rate stays high all day long, it means stress is affecting your life. It is time to face the truth and learn a few stress reduction techniques. Heart rate does not lie and how you cope with stress affects your sanity, health and longevity.
Inspired to live a better life? Here is a must-read primer on cardiovascular health: “The Ultimate Guide” to perfecting circulation. For all your blood pressure and cardiovascular needs visit Our STORE.