Let’s calm things down with some deep breaths: in…out…in…out. Relax. Feel your pulse rate slowing?
We’ve known for some time that there’s more to pulse rate than beats per minute. Heart rate variability–the change in intervals between beats–can be used to distinguish healthy hearts from diseased and damaged ones.
One sign of a healthy heart is slight, seemingly random variations in the intervals between beats. These variations seem to be governed by power laws which is somewhat of a puzzle in itself.
By contrast, a steady unchanging beat interval seems to be a sign of disease.
Now Nikitas Papasimakis and Fotini Pallikari at the University of Athens in Greece have studied the heart beat intervals in people who are meditating and found that the power law variations disappear.
That raises an interesting question: is meditating good for the heart or not? Papasimakis and Pallikari argue that the loss of power law correlations cannot be used as evidence of ill health because the correlations return as soon as the subject stops meditating. Fair enough.
But what does the ability to switch these correlations on and off mean for health? Nobody knows just yet but it’s a fascinating area in which it’ll be interesting to see where more data leads.
: Breakdown of Long-Range Correlations in Heart Rate Fluctuations During Meditation