Software Analysis of Heart Rate Variability: Features and Use Cases

September 16, 2021
Software Analysis of Heart Rate Variability: Features and Use Cases

Heart rate variability (HRV) software allows to extract such measures over user-defined areas of data, obtain RSA measures using frequency-based HRV, and automatically compute HRV using geometrical and statistical methods. And that’s not all. Let’s review the ins and outs of this solution and the main opportunities it gives.

How heart rate variability is measured by software analysis

Let’s start with the definition of software analysis of heart rate variability. Briefly speaking, HRV analysis software examines beat-to-beat (RR) interval variation in ECG recordings or arterial pulse signals. HRV analysis can be based on a previous ECG recording or sample data. After automatically detecting beats, the HRV module classifies them into Normal or Ectopic based on the presets or settings made by the user. It’s possible to add or remove beats during the analysis manually.

HRV is broadly used in different research applications to assess autonomic nervous system (ANS) function that regulates bodily functions such as heart rate, vasoconstriction, and respiratory rate. Usually, there are such types of HRV software: scientific research, well-being and health, and exercise and sports. Let’s review the specifics of each one.

HRV apps for scientific research are divided into gold standard software, device-independent software, and software for researchers. With the help of device-independent software, researchers can conduct HRV analysis using their existing measurement devices or rely on the already collected datasets. This type of software is compatible with most HR monitors on the market, electrocardiogram (ECG), and photoplethysmogram (PPG) devices. To make use of HRV analysis, researchers need to have either beat-to-beat RR or IBI data or raw ECG or PPG data and use a special heart rate variability equipment.

Software for scientific research and professional use normally contains a variety of analysis parameters, including all commonly used time-domain, frequency-domain, and nonlinear HRV parameters. Researchers can export data in several formats and post-process the results in Excel, SPSS, or Matlab.

HRV software is used in the well-being and health industries to measure physiological stress and recovery from occupational stress or effects of physical therapy, relaxation techniques, lifestyle interventions, etc.

HRV can be used to measure the training load and recovery in the sport and fitness field to support subjective feelings and other performance data. It also helps to detect acute and chronic fatigue. Usually, HRV guided recovery monitoring is used in training optimization by professionals, but sports enthusiasts or people interested in their wellbeing and recovery can also be used.

Image by Proxet. Heart Rate Variability
Heart Rate Variability

Heart rate variability chart: Why track it?

Heart variability is a constant variation of heart rhythm in milliseconds between the heartbeat. These variations influence the ability of your heart to react to different situations, such as stress or illnesses. HRV is also connected to the nervous system and, thus, heart rate, respiration, and digestion. 

There is usually no good or bad HRV as it’s relative for each person. HRV also has natural highs and lows that can fluctuate throughout the day and change depending on the daily stressors that challenge our nervous system.

Monitoring your HRV helps track and reach peak productivity, manage stress, and improve the training regimen. Here is how heart rate variability chart looks like:

Image by Proxet. Middle 50% of HRV Values by Age
Middle 50% of HRV Values by Age

This heart rate variability graph shows the average range of heart rate variability by age, from 20-65. As you can see, the HRV of younger people is higher than in older people, and males may have higher HRV than females.

How to calculate heart rate variability? It is measured by first dividing the 24 h record into 288 five-minute segments and then calculating the standard deviation of all NN intervals contained within each segment.

However, it’s recommended to track your own HRV and not rely on the external numbers and any HRV analysis model. For example, if you care about your health and body, your heart rate variability will begin to rise, and you’ll have a high-frequency heart rate variability. On the other hand, a downward trend in HRV can indicate that you are training too much or get poor nutrition or insufficient sleep.

“Whatever might be the method of tracking HRV, the most exciting application of this physiological parameter is perhaps its ability to track stress. Tracking HRV can help individual incorporate healthy habits such as mindfulness, meditation, sleep, and physical activity into their life.”

Shourjya Sanyal, CEO and Co-founder of a leading AI-powered medical device startup Kubios.

HRV analysis and software features

Now let’s review the main features of HRV analysis software. It usually includes:

  • Detection and analysis of R waves & RR interval variation in ECG in real-time or offline.
  • Ideal for animal and human cardiovascular studies of delta heart rate
  • Automatically classify beats as normal or ectopic from animal presets or user-selected interval classification limits.
  • Exclude artifacts or include beats in the analysis on an individual basis.
  • Adjustable histogram bin size
  • Segmentations options that help to analyze time spans
  • Continuous analysis for second by second calculation of statistics
  • Data visualization
  • Tracking of respiration rate to validate RSA with flags to notify you of any potential issues.
  • Automatic generation of clinically accepted statistical parameters.
  • Specialized analysis plot windows derived from RR interval data includes:
  • Poincaré Plot: scatter plot where each RR interval is plotted against its preceding RR interval. 
  • Period Histogram: displays the frequency distribution of RR intervals.
  • Delta RR Histogram: displays the frequency distribution of differences between each RR interval and its successor.
  • Tachogram plots: successive RR interval values against the ‘beat number.’, 
  • Spectrum: displays the power spectrum of time-based Tachogram, also referred to as the 'Spectrum of Intervals.’ Draggable vertical lines indicate limits of LF and HF regions of the spectrum.
  • Automatic generation of exportable and printable reports displaying HRV analysis statistical results.
  • All HRV windows are linked for an immediate update when modifications are performed

Such software allows to perform the analysis based on defined data selections, or automatically within user-specified periods, or between stimulus presentation event marks, or user-entered event marks. You can also create focus areas in real-time or post-acquisition, and the software will analyze these data immediately.

Modern clinic technology for HRV tracking

Nowadays, many devices help measure heart rate variability in clinical and field applications.

“Heart rate variability (HRV) offers insights into humoral, neural, and neurovisceral processes in health and disorders of brain, body, and behavior but has yet to be fully potentiated in the digital age. Remote measurement technologies (RMTs), such as smartphones, wearable sensors, or home-based devices, can passively capture HRV as a nested parameter of neurovisceral integration and health during everyday life, providing insights across different contexts, such as activities of daily living, therapeutic interventions, and behavioral tasks, to complement ongoing clinical care.”

— Andrew P. Owens on behalf of the RADAR-AD Consortium

Wearable Health Devices (WHDs) help continuously monitor human vital signs during daily life (during work, at home, during sports activities, etc.) or in a clinical environment, with the advantage of minimizing discomfort and interference with normal human activities. 

According to
, the wearable devices market currently has around $26 billion worldwide and is expected to reach almost $34 billion in 2021. Healthcare and medical environments are expected to grow almost to $15 billion worldwide value in 2022.

There are also a lot of mobile apps for HRV tracking and heart rate variability monitor. For example, Elitehrv is a Heart Rate Variability (HRV) tracking app for deep insight into your health, stress, recovery, and nervous system balance. It enables to get readings in virtual real-time from the mobile app to the dashboard. You can conveniently capture HRV directly from the FREE mobile app, analyze your historical data, trend your data with custom charting and smart filters, and automatically sync data worldwide for analysis in the dashboard with secure SSL encryption, automatic cloud backups, and unlimited data storage.

“The use of wearable devices in health care offers numerous benefits and advantages to both patients and health care providers, such as real-time health monitoring, early detection of risks and diseases, easy sharing of data between remote patients and clinicians.”

Vlad Medvedovsky, Founder and CEO at Proxet (ex - Rails Reactor), a company that provides software development services for different industries

Another example of heart rate variability apps is Welltory - heart rate variability monitoring app. It provides users with personalized interpretations of heart rate variability and recommendations for adjustments. Their specific advantage is an extensive database of over 2 million heart rate variability measurements (a total of over 2 billion data points), so they use big data technology to test the results against 5,000-plus clinical assessments completed by their users. As a result, they have developed the world’s first self-learning HRV algorithm that depends on a person’s HRV baseline.

Proxet custom solutions

Are you interested in developing custom software for heart rate variability analysis? 

Proxet team has expertise in creating different products for the healthcare industry, such as on-demand healthcare analytics and medical research portals. 

We specialize in providing medical researchers with a simple user interface to the data repository of clinical histories that can be queried and summarized for biomedical research and clinical care. This service can be useful for making diagnoses, prescribing and identifying patterns in treatment, selecting subjects for clinical trials, and monitoring its participants. 

We also have experience creating a medical portal - a web-based healthcare application that supports over 10,000 current users in researching new cures. Community members (including investigators, departmental research managers, unit chiefs, and administrators) can review, monitor, and manage their research portfolios.

Proxet solves complex problems arising in the fast-evolving healthcare and pharma sectors. Our engineers work side-by-side with healthcare businesses and offer technical solutions based on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence techniques. Here are the other applications we have developed:

  • Drug Research Portfolio Management System
  • Medical Research Analytics and Reporting System
  • Triage Call Center and Dispatch Modules
  • Caregiver Applications
  • Medical Personnel Mobile Solutions
  • Medical Personnel Onboarding
  • eWallet for Insurance
  • Patient Portal and Mobile Solution
  • Home Health Software

Interested in a custom solution for HRV tracking? Our experienced product owners and developers will gladly assist you in deciding what data to collect and how to use it efficiently.

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