Heart Rate Variability and Relation to Threat Response via Situational Awareness

Your fight or flight response is dependent upon your health.

Our heart rate association with action or inaction can indicate our ability to react to a high stress situation. As a prepper we want to maintain a Yellow to Orange level of readiness and need to be ready to enter Red at a moment’s notice. Our Heart Rate Variability (HRV) should be be mid to high when we're out in public.

SUMMARY: A high variation in your heart rate when you’re at rest can increase your reaction speed and mental abilities to engage a life threatening event such as drawing, getting on target, and stopping an active shooter. There are 8 things you can do today that may save your life tomorrow.

First let’s give a reminder on the Cooper’s Color Code. It all relates to your situational awareness level and your ability to react.

White = Oblivious
Yellow = Aware
Orange = Alert
Red = Engaged
Black = Overwhelmed


Now let's explain HRV. It is the physiological phenomenon of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. It is measured by the variation in the beat-to-beat interval. Simply put, the variability between heart beats. High HRV usually means that the body has a strong ability to tolerate stress or is strongly recovering from prior accumulated stress. At rest, a high HRV is generally favorable and a low HRV is unfavorable. (Note: HRV is not BPM)

HRV matters because it provides an objective measure of your current condition and explains why performance potential will change during varying conditions. Increased heart rates due to threats or Quality of Life (QoL) conditions are physiologically different than exercise induced high rates.

During exercise our muscles require more oxygen causing vosodilation, this opens our blood vessels.

During threat response, the blood vessels constricts. This increases blood pressure and reduce oxygen to the muscles.

If you can control and manage your responses to stress your HRV baseline and HRV reaction to threats will correspond. In short, as stress tolerance increases to QoL (problems at work or home.) Your abilities to react to threats increases. This keeps you out of the black while improving your transition from Orange to Red.

Quick tips to manage QoL and Threat Based stress.

1. Build coping mechanisms.
2. Disregard events out of your control.
3. Maintain a positive attitude.
4. Remain calm and make plan of action.
5. Adapt.
6. Research, practice, and train.

Some of these sound too obvious or cliché but think about them. #2 for example, if your faced with an issue you, yourself, can't affect, why worry over it. Handle it and move on. #6 for example, if you get trapped in an overturned vehicle, some simple research can provide you with improvised tools to break a window, teach you when to attempt to open the door, or how to escape from a jammed seat belt. Don't wait until you’re in a situation. Train your mind now, make it muscle memory.

Neuroimaging studies suggested that HRV may be linked to cortical regions (e.g., the ventromedial prefrontal cortex) that are involved in stressful situation appraisal.

HRV represents the ability of the heart to respond to physiological and environmental stimuli. Low HRV is associated with impaired regulatory and homeostatic autonomic nervous system (ANS) functions, which reduce the body’s ability to cope with internal and external stressors. 

A high HRV promotes positive changes to the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). The PNS promotes the sympathetic response to stress, commonly referred to as a fight or flight response, by withdrawing the inhibitory effect.

So, I tell you all this to explain that a high HRV can help you in a high stress scenario such as a response to a home invasion, elevator mugging, or egress from a flash flood area.

Here's how you can start creating a high HRV baseline,
1. Cold Thermogenesis - cold shower, walking outside in the winter wearing just your underwear for 3 minutes.
2. Good Nutrition at the right times.
3. Hydrate - research how much water you need based on sex, weight, and activity.
4. Mediation and Breathing Exercises.
5. Don't Drink Alcohol - or do so in moderation.
6. Sleep Well & Consistently.
7. Natural Light Exposure - sun is good.
8. Exercise & Train Appropriately.

It is also important to note that BPM plays a role in your physical abilities also. We'll refer to the Cooper’s Color Codes to relate BPM to your SA ability.

At 60 BPM you are at your resting heart rate and fall somewhere between "White" and "Yellow".
At 90 BPM your fine motor skills begin to deteriorate. This is relatable to being at "Yellow" for 3 or more hours.
At 120 BPM your cognitive motor skills begin to deteriorate. This relatable to being "Orange" for 3 or more hours.
At 150 BPM your cognitive processing deteriorates, peripherals and depth perception decreases, and audio exclusion occurs. This relates to being in the "Red" ranging from the first second to up to 60 minutes depending on level of engagement.
At 175 BPM all reasoning and comprehension abilities are lost. This is relatable to being in the "Black".

The heart is important.

Health is one aspect of a prepper's ability to overcome threats. Knowledge of potential threats can aid in avoiding danger in the first place. Sign up for Intel and Situational Awareness updates via the Grayman Briefing.