What Is Heart Rate Variability & How Does it Relate to Weight?


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Thanks to wearable devices, you can use all sorts of metrics to keep track of your health. You can check your weight, blood pressure, the number of steps you take, heart rate and more as you go about your day.

While heart rate may not need an explanation, another number may be new to you — your heart rate variability (HRV). So, what is heart rate variability, and how does it affect your overall health?

HRV, a measure of the variation between heartbeats, affects your health in many ways — and may even be a better measurement than the more commonly known ones for fitness, stress levels and more.

What Is Heart Rate Variability?

First, what is HRV and what’s considered normal heart rate variability?

Even when your heartbeat feels steady, there may be a slight variation in the intervals between heartbeats.

No need to panic, as these variations between heartbeats are teeny, measured in milliseconds or one-thousandths of a second. As you can probably guess, these variations are what you’re measuring when you measure heart rate variability.

You should also know that HRV isn’t the same as arrhythmia, which is an irregular heartbeat. It’s a type of normal heartbeat, which is called “sinus rhythm.”

The time between each beat varies (there could be 0.7 seconds between two beats and 1.20 seconds between two other beats), and the individual time intervals between two heartbeats are known as RR intervals.

HRV can vary between people, which means there’s no one “average” heart rate variability.

What Affects HRV?

Your heart rate varies at all times, controlled by the balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Both are part of the autonomic nervous system that regulates body systems like breathing and digestion.

The sympathetic system controls “fight-or-flight” responses and prepares your body for strenuous physical activity. During sympathetic activity like outrunning danger (or just getting regular exercise), your airways expand, digestion slows down and your heart rate speeds up.

On the other hand, the parasympathetic system regulates “rest and digest” functions. During parasympathetic activity — like when you’re recovering from that challenging workout — your heart rate decreases, and your body returns to operating at baseline.

Since HRV can be influenced by several factors — like physical health, lifestyle, mental health, environmental factors, age and genetics — each person’s normal heart rate variability can differ.

(RelatedHow to Break Weight Loss Plateau)

Why Heart Rate Variability Is Important

So why should you know about HRV, and what is a good heart rate variability?

Heart rate variability is one sign of overall well-being.

Specifically, a high heart rate variability can be one sign of good health. Low HRV, on the other hand, is associated with poor cardiovascular health (anything from heart disease to heart attacks and high blood pressure) as well as mental disorders.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but a high HRV means your body adapts to different situations like it should, while a low HRV can mean your body is always a bit too stressed.

One way you can use average heart rate variability is to measure stress and recovery.  By timing the milliseconds between heartbeats, you can figure out how challenging your next workout can be or if you should rest after strenuous physical activity.

Knowing whether or not you have a low heart rate variability may help improve athletic performance and help you figure out if anxiety and depression treatments are working well for you. This knowledge can also help you improve your sleep and overall quality of life, according to a small number of studies.

How do you know if you have low heart rate variability? Low HRV symptoms can include fatigue, poor sleep quality, anxiety and depression symptoms.

After all this information, you might also wonder, “Why is my HRV so low?”

You might have a low heart rate variability if you’re exposed to a lot of stressors over a long period of time. This can lead to a high resting heart rate and a low HRV.

(RelatedCan Sleep Affect Weight Loss?)

How to Improve HRV

Now that you know why this metric is important, you may want to learn how to improve heart rate variability.

To know how to increase your heart rate variability, you’ll first need to measure your HRV. The most accurate way is to use the results of an electrocardiogram (EKG), a test that creates a visual representation of your heartbeats.

You can also wear an HRV monitor, which is available on many smartwatches and wearable fitness trackers like chest straps.

One way to achieve a healthy heart rate variability is by reducing and managing stress levels.

Several studies have also shown that people with obesity and excess weight can improve their HRV through weight loss.

Changes in nutrition and adding more movement into your days could also improve HRV, as well as reduce excess weight and the chances of obesity. Even low to moderately intense exercise like walking has been shown to improve heart rate variability in some people.

Improved quantity and quality of sleep are also important for weight loss efforts and could lead to healthy heart rate variability.

The Overall Importance of Heart Rate Variability

There are many metrics to track your health, from heart rate and sleep to weight and how many steps you take. But heart rate variability is another important health metric to keep track of. Let’s recap what you should know.

  • What is heart rate variability (HRV)? HRV is the time between heartbeats. The average heart rate variability is influenced by age, genetics, physical health, lifestyle habits, mental health and more.

  • What does HRV mean? A higher HRV can be a sign of good health. It typically means better heart health and reduced risk of heart failure, other cardiovascular diseases and mental health disorders, as well as improved cognitive function.

  • How can you improve HRV? Reducing stress, weight management, increased movement and better sleep are some suggestions of how to improve heart rate variability.

Certain devices like smartwatches can track your HRV. You can also discuss any concerns or questions about improving your HRV with your healthcare provider, from increased physical activity and stress reduction techniques to weight loss treatments.

This article originally appeared on Forhers.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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Weight Loss Medications: Are They Actually Effective?

Weight Loss Medications: Are They Actually Effective?

It’s common knowledge that managing your weight keeps you healthy now and as you get older. In fact, obesity contributes to several health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

Not only was the prevalence of obesity in U.S. adults nearly 42 percent in 2017, but the estimated medical costs for adults with obesity were almost $2,000 more each year than for adults who do not have obesity .

Those who have a body mass index (BMI, or the measurement of fat based on height and weight) between 25 and 30 are considered overweight, while those with a BMI over 30 are considered to have obesity.

You’ve probably heard of a few weight loss medications, or at least their brand names, like Ozempic® and Wegovy®. However, there are several other prescription drugs available that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and frequently prescribed off-label for weight loss.

Healthcare providers may prescribe these medications to someone who has obesity or is overweight with a weight-related health problem like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.


You’re probably familiar with one of semaglutide’s brand names, Ozempic — other brand names for this drug include Wegovy and Rybelsus®.

Ozempic is approved by the FDA to treat type 2 diabetes and may be prescribed off-label for weight loss, in combination with lifestyle changes like diet and exercise or with other diabetes medications like insulin or metformin.

Wegovy, meanwhile, is a prescription medication approved for use for weight loss in people who have obesity or who are overweight.

Ozempic and Wegovy are in a class of medication called GLP-1 receptor agonists, which mimic the hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 and target areas of the brain that regulate appetite.

Ozempic was approved by the FDA in 2017, while Wegovy was granted approval to pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk more recently, in 2021.


Although only approved by the FDA to treat diabetes, metformin is often used off-label for weight loss, as well as gestational diabetes (a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy) and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

It isn’t exactly clear how metformin helps people lose weight, but researchers think the drug works as an appetite suppressant. Similarly to Ozempic, metformin may increase how much GLP-1 hormone your body makes. This can send a signal to your brain that you’re full, which means you eat fewer calories.

Read our blog to learn about Ozempic vs. Metformin for weight loss.

(Related: Metformin For Weight Loss: Does It Work?)

Tatsiana Niamera/istockphoto

If you’ve dealt with depression or looked into medication to quit smoking, bupropion may sound familiar to you.

For weight loss, it can be combined with the drug naltrexone, which is used to treat alcohol and drug dependence, to curb your hunger or make you feel fuller sooner. Together, these medications work on two areas of the brain, the hunger center and the reward system, to reduce appetite and help control cravings.

Along with a reduced calorie diet and exercise plan, naltrexone-bupropion can also help keep excess weight off.


Phentermine-topiramate is actually two separate medications that are combined in Qsymia, but are offered separately in other applications. 

While phentermine is considered an anorectic and topiramate is an anticonvulsant, both help with appetite suppression.

Topiramate offers the added benefit of helping you feel fuller longer after you eat.

When used specifically with a healthy exercise regimen and a reduced calorie diet, these medications — either together or separately — have been shown to help people lose weight and keep it off.


Orlistat, which belongs to a class of medications known as lipase inhibitors, reduces the amount of fat your body absorbs from the food you eat.

Orlistat is used for weight loss in conjunction with exercise and a reduced-calorie diet, as well as after weight loss to help people keep from gaining back that weight.

While the brand name Xenical requires a prescription, another brand called Alli is available in a lower dosage without one.


Like Ozempic and Wegovy, liraglutide is an injected weight loss medication. It works as a GLP-1 receptor agonist to suppress appetite, similarly to semaglutide.

Also available under the brand name Victoza at a lower dose, this drug is FDA-approved to treat type 2 diabetes.

(Related: Weight Loss Injections: Are They Safe?)


These weight loss drugs are all available with a prescription from a healthcare professional, but how effective are they really?

  • One study found that when people without diabetes took a weekly semaglutide injection they had a higher average weight loss — almost a 15 percent average decrease in weight — than people who took a placebo.

  • Metformin has also demonstrated clinically significant weight loss. A 2020 meta-analysis of 21 trials testing metformin found the drug had a modest impact on lowering BMI, especially for those who are considered to have obesity.

  • smaller study on metformin also found that the average amount of weight lost in 154 patients was between 5.6 and 7 kgs (that’s roughly between 13 and 15 pounds).

It’s also worth mentioning cost here — if you can’t afford the drug you need to take, it’s effectiveness essentially drops to zero percent. That said, there’s some wide price disparity between weight loss drugs. 

For instance, injectibals like Ozempic and Wegovy are generally more expensive than orals like metformin — namely because metformin is a generic medication that’s been around for decades, and Ozempic and Wegovy are newer. 

Liudmila Chernetska/istockphoto

Because everyone’s weight loss journey is different, weight loss medications may work slowly for some people and faster for others.

How long you need to take a weight loss prescription drug depends on various factors such as what side effects you experience, how much weight you need to lose, whether the drug helps keep the weight off and more.

Generally, as found in the studies noted above and clinical trials, weight loss will occur within the first few months of using the medication.

Sometimes your health care professional may recommend long-term use of the medication, while other people may be advised to stop the drug if they don’t lose a certain amount of weight after 12 weeks.

If you’re taking a weight loss medication, your healthcare provider will likely suggest that you also increase your physical activity and make healthy lifestyle changes like eating lots of protein and fiber and getting enough sleep. These medications are the most effective when combined with healthy habits.

Jorge Elizaquibel/istockphoto

Just like any medication, weight loss drugs also come with the possibility of side effects.

When it comes to injectibal drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy, there are some broad side effects that apply to all injectibals — like swelling, redness or other discomfort at the injection site — but generally, the side effects profiles of these drugs are similar regardless of delivery method.

The most common side effects of many of these weight loss medications include:

  • Stomach pain or constipation

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

Some, like liraglutide and naltrexone-bupropion, may cause an increased heart rate or headaches.

Liraglutide and semaglutide may also increase the risk of pancreatitis (swelling of the pancreas). You may also have a higher risk of developing tumors or thyroid cancer when using liraglutide or semaglutide, although these serious side effects are very rare.


There’s a good chance you’ve heard of weight loss medications like Ozempic or even Wegovy, but there’s also a good chance that the headlines and celebrity-focused articles didn’t answer all your questions. Here’s what you need to know about whether they’re effective.

  • There are several FDA-approved weight loss drugs, including semaglutide, orlistat, phentermine-topiramate, naltrexone-bupropion and liraglutide. Metformin is another common medication used off-label for weight management.

  • These drugs all work slightly differently, but many decrease your appetite and help you stick to a lower-calorie diet. Healthcare providers often recommend they be used alongside regular exercise and healthy habits to maximize sustained weight loss.

  • However, there are side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation and, for the injectibals, injection-side irritation, injury or discomfort. Often, these are mild and serious side effects rarely happen.

  • Cost is also worth considering. Injectibals like Ozempic and Wegovy can generally cost anywhere from $800 to $1,000 per prescription, where a generic like metformin can be had for a fraction of that — usually for under $100 a month.

There’s no one “best weight loss medication” — there’s only what’s best for your particular needs. If you’re curious about medication for weight loss, you can talk to your healthcare provider for medical advice and to explore your options. And if you’re interested in other weight loss treatments online, we can help. 

This article originally appeared on Forhers.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.



Featured Image Credit: chanuth/Istockphoto.