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Trusting the Numbers 8: A heart rate mystery solved

Today I used my heart rate to uncover something that was causing me trouble.

For the last few days, my heart rate has been unusually high, and my HRV (both moment-to-moment and my morning reading) has been lower than usual.

I felt normal, but whatever I did, my heart rate would trend steadily upward. Sometimes it would also trend down again, only to turn right around and head up, too high. Here’s part of yesterday’s graph.
Screenshot 2022-12-25 at 4.17.04 PM.png

Since my RHR is around 58 right now, this is not good. Notice that after a 10:20 bathroom trip, my HR started low but then rose. The meal that started at 10:43 led, atypically, to a lowering of my HR, followed by more rise. Somehow it came down again, then around 11:15 it rose again.

Time for detective work! Since I was worried about my heart rate I wanted to avoid poking around to much on the phone, so I took advantage of the holiday to encourage my husband to get some experience with the apps. (He’s an engineer—I want to get him more involved in my data!) Neither of us could find a pattern. Food, activity, computer, meds—nothing seemed to correlate, either at the time of the rise or at a consistent time later.

By this morning, after two days of this, my HRV4Training app was telling me that I have “maladaptation to training.” But I wasn’t doing anything different! Surely I wasn't overexerting? I’ve been staying off the computer (mostly), staying in bed, avoiding video, and limiting my speech and (to a lesser degree) my reading. Had I turned some awful corner and now my body just couldn’t handle life? But if so, why did I still feel okay?

Around noon it occurred to me: maybe I’m too warm. I threw off my cozy blankets—and my heart rate almost immediately returned to normal, and has stayed there. Since then, both my HR and my HRV have stayed at levels that I think are healthy for me.

Honestly, I should have known that that many blankets would be a problem. I think I was in denial. For whatever reason, I didn't think of it until my HR pointed the way.

I’m really grateful for apps that record my heart rate like this. Without them I would have noticed trouble on my morning HRV reading, but I would have assumed that it was a food sensitivity (and removed something from my diet), or that it was overexertion (and reduced my activity). And that wouldn't have worked, anyway.

The same thing would have happened if I’d been lax about keeping my diary. Comparing the graph and the diary showed me that food, exertion, and meds were not the problem.

And I have been lax lately about the diary, just not these last few days. I guess I recorded more carefully because I saw my HR rising, but it’s reminded me that I never know when I’m going to want that data, which I hope will help me be more consistent.

I’m a little disappointed in what I learned, though. I felt so cozy under all the quilts that my mother made! One of them she made for our bed. Another she gave me for my living room, and the third is a Christmas quilt that I put over the top—and now that I think of it, I put it on top just about the same time I started having HR troubles.

But that’s easily solved. My husband has agreed to turn down the temperature in the house so that I can use at least some of my quilts and blankets!
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