In the first episode of The Quantified Body, we looked at the biometric of Heart Rate Variability or HRV and how to apply it to optimize training and workouts.
HRV has also been researched in other contexts such as stress management, general health, motivation, and willpower, where it can help you make decisions about how to improve these areas and identify what’s working for you – and what is not. So we’re going to continue to look at its use in these different contexts and the research behind it.
Today we’re looking at managing stress with heart rate variability and general health management, also our guest heads up the company which is currently leading the way in HRV apps targeting the stress management area.
Today’s guest is Ronda Collier, CEO of SweetWater Health, a company developing HRV applications for mobile platforms like the iPhone and Android. Ronda has over 25 years experience in technology product development and founded SweetWater Health in 2010 to focus on Heart Rate Variability.
She’s very hands on and working with a variety of companies in the area, so there’s a lot of practical details in our chat today and ideas from her on how HRV apps are going to progress over time.
The show notes, biomarkers, and links to the apps and devices and everything else mentioned are below. Enjoy the show and let me know what you think in the comments!
- A review of the market of heart rate variability supporting devices and apps and the different standards and their accuracy.
- What is required for accurate readings in terms of data input from the EKG compliance heart rate reading device (e.g. heart rate chest strap, ).
- The best “use cases” Ronda has found for getting actionable data from heart rate variability.
- The different measures of HRV: Time domain, frequency domain and non-linear.
- Using HRV for stress management, to improve your stress baseline with activities like meditation and see the progress as well as identifying ‘high stress’ triggers for you.
- Comparing the HeartMath coherence training to the use of the standard HRV stress measure (frequency domain).
- How to use the SweetBeat and SweetBeat Life apps to monitor stress – some tips on Ronda on how to use effectively including health and less healthy (aka chronically stressed) benchmarks for HRV, LF and HF to compare your numbers to.
- How the more advanced users are using the SweetBeat app and its more detailed metrics and functionality to improve their stress management over the day.
- Other functionality on the SweetBeat and SweetBeat Life apps including food allergy/ sensitivity testing and correlating changes in a range of biometrics tracked by the app including HRV and other readings from devices it interfaces with.
- Using HRV as an objective measure of effectiveness of alternative health treatments or techniques such as acupuncture or chiropractor.
- The goal of raising your parasympathetic activity (HF) to lower chronic stress and the interventions and activities that have an impact on it such as yoga – Ronda provides benchmarks and examples of what they’ve seen work.
Give some love to Ronda on Twitter to thank her for the advice in this interview.
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Biomarkers in this Episode
- Heart Rate Variability (HRV): Measures how your heart rate varies over time. Research studies link HRV to recovery status, stress and other aspects of human physiology. See the specific measures below for which ones measure stress.
- R-R intervals: Time interval in between heart beats (R = peak of heart beat).
- RMSSD (Root Mean Square of the Successive Differences): The time-domain measure used to calculate HRV that has proven to be reliable and is used in a lot of the research studies – the industry standard for HRV.
- lnRMSSDx20 (RMSSD with natural log and multiple of 20 applied): Applications have begun using this measure, which is basically RMSSD scaled to an index of 100, to make it more user friendly. SweetWater uses their own version of this.
- LF (Low Frequency): Spectral measure that indicates combination of parasympathetic and sympathetic activation. The HeartMath algorithm uses a spike at a frequency within this band.
- HF (High Frequency): Spectral measure that indicates parasympathetic activation.
- LF/HF Ratio: The ratio of LF to HF gives a proxy measure of stress, or more specifically .
- HeartMath Coherence Score: The HeartMath coherence score goes from 1 to 16 and measures your alignment with a spike at 0.1Hz on the frequency domain which is within the LF zone, and none or very low presentation in the other areas like the HF zone. LF represents both sympathetic and parasympathetic activity, so the 0.1Hz frequency is related to parasympathetic activity specifically. You find this within HeartMath
- Resting Heart Rate (RHR): Measure of your heart rate at rest (typically measured upon waking). This is one of the measures Ronda tracks routinely to monitor her own health.
- Blood Pressure: One of the biometrics that Ronda tracks for her own personal health.
- The Coca Pulse Test: A measure of increase of heart rate that attempts to identify food sensitivities and allergies. You can read more about it in this book from the creator Dr. Arthur Coca, The Pulse Test: The Secret of Building Your Basic Health. SweetBeat and SweetBeat Life HRV apps use this test for their food sensitivity functionality.
Apps and Devices from this Episode
- SweetBeat: The original HRV app that has been available for the last 2 years – it has HRV for training, HRV stress, food sensitivity functionality.
- SweetBeat Life: Ronda’s new app that has extended functionality including the correlation function and additional data on HRV and real time HRV data.
- Ithlete: One of the competing HRV apps with similar functionality to SweetBeat in the HRV for training area. Does not have HRV stress management functionality.
- The Health Patch: One of the competing HRV apps with similar functionality to SweetBeat in the HRV for training area. Does not have HRV stress management functionality.
- HeartMath: HeartMath use a proprietary algorithm measuring coherence with a variety of devices including the emwave2 and Inner Balance Sensor (iPhone, android).
- Basis Watch: Watch that tracks heart rate and resting heart rate, but due its technology, has limitations in accuracy and sampling and is unable to record heart rate variability.
- Mio Alpha: Another watch with heart rate monitor functionality which is working on a more advanced technology than the Basis watch, which may potentially track HRV eventually.
- Bioforce HRV: Another application used for HRV for training similar to ithlete.
- VitalConnect HealthPatch: A stick on patch that lasts for a number of days or longer depending on use that tracks heart rate and heart rate variability. The SweetBeat apps work with this patch and SweetBeat Life can use the data with its correlation functionality.
- Withings WS-50 Smart Body Analyzer: This device weighs you and tracks other body data. SweetBeat Life interfaces with this and is able to use the data with its correlation functionality.
Other Resources Mentioned in this Episode
Ronda Collier and Sweetwater Health
- Connecting with Ronda Collier and SweetWater Health: You can connect with Ronda at her website SweetWaterHRV.com (company site) and also on twitter @BeatHealthy and facebook BeatHealthy.
- Quantified Body Ep. #1 on “HRV for Training”: In this previous episode we looked at using HRV to optimize workouts and training sessions in great detail with Andrew Flatt, athlete and researcher.
- The Quantified Self Conference: This conference takes place yearly in San Francisco and has many devices and apps companies attending as well as many presentations on quantified N=1 experiments and on the quantified self movement itself.
Other People, Resources and Books Mentioned
Who should I interview next? Please let me know by clicking here
Full Interview Transcript
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Hi Ronda, great to have you on the podcast.
[Ronda Collier]: Hi Damien, thanks for having me.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That’s great. I did see you briefly last year in the Quantified Self. Do you go to that conference every year?
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, we have been the last – well, there have only been two and we have been at both of them. We presented at breakout sessions for heart rate variability. So they are pretty popular.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, and do you meet a lot of providers of HRV? You have been in this segment since 2011. How has it changed since then? How many players were there doing HRV stuff back then and how has it changed now? Are there different types of players? I noticed your proposition is changing a bit.
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, back in the old days and really before smart phones, heart rate variability systems were big and clunky and expensive if you wanted to measure some of the standard HRV values like LFHV, which we can talk about. And nobody really heard of them quite frankly. I only know because that is our space. I think Heartmath really brought heart rate variability closer to the consumer with their M-wave products.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So they were the first ones, although theirs is actually a bit different to the standard.
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, theirs is different and Heartmath is really more about coherence training, which is wonderful in itself, but they really had people talking about it in some of the more esoteric books, if you will. But I ran across Heartmath in reading some books for actually researching my thesis.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So how long has Heartmath been around? I know you worked there for a little while.
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, they have been around about 20 years, yeah, for a long time. So they have an extensive amount of research on heart rate variability that is pretty interesting. And then three years ago you had iFleet starting to come out and that was really it. And then you have Zumio came out with their camera sensor, which is not very accurate but yet sort of furthering the cause of heart rate variability, which is important.
And moving all the way up until today where we are seeing a few more players like iFleet more in that space, Bioforce really not displaying all the HRV parameters like Sweetwater is, more the number used for training.
But I think the big news in heart rate variability is the Samsung, the new Galaxy is announced to measure heart rate variability.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Wow, yeah, that’s a big deal.
[Ronda Collier]: And even though it is just with the camera sensor, just for your listeners, a camera sensor is never going to be accurate.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right, that is something I wanted to talk about today because I know you plug in with a variety of sensors. We did talk in our first episode with Andrew Flatt about some different sensors and some of the different measures and obviously we want to make sure people understand the practicalities and the accuracy, depending on which one they decide to go with. I think that is an important point.
[Ronda Collier]: It is – and so even though the Samsung is using the camera sensor, they are talking about it. And now that is great, and it means it is showing up in the mainstream. So we are really excited. It is such an important parameter that has just been kept in the closet for some reason.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right, so let’s just kind of dive into the kind of accuracy since we are talking about it anyway and we won’t have to circle back. Obviously the thing about the Samsung Galaxy is they didn’t want to provide something external to the phone, and they want to try to have the device within the phone. And besides the camera sensor, is there anything else you could use that would actually come with the phone that would be able to help you track heart rate?
[Ronda Collier]: The closest idea I can come up with for you here is there is a company called AliveCore that has an iPhone and Android case, and it is actually EKG accurate, which is what you really need for accurate heart rate variability and that is all that Sweetwater will support, anything that is close to EKG accurate.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: How do you establish that standard, EKG accurate? Is there a certain – I don’t know, is there sensitivity in terms of the speed of the heartbeat it has to be able to pick up? Or how do you rate that?
[Ronda Collier]: There is obviously the sampling rate. It has to be twice the heart beat. It is called Nyquist frequency for electrical engineers. But really what you need in simple terms are accurate, beat-to-beat intervals.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So you are saying that it has to sample twice as fast as whatever heart rate you are trying to –
[Ronda Collier]: At a minimum, yeah. There is something called the Nyquist frequency in electrical engineering, so if you want to get an accurate digital sample it has to be at least twice the frequency of what you are sampling.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right, and for the normal population what is the maximum heart rate you are trying to track?
[Ronda Collier]: Oh we track, gosh, as low as 30. And if you are below that you are pretty sick and you probably aren’t using our product. Then up to about 200.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: 200, wow. So you have to be running?
[Ronda Collier]: Some athletes actually get up close to that. My personal max heart rate is about 170, but people do get up in the 200s and we can measure that as well. So you have a wide range. But really it is getting accurate, beat-to-beat intervals that is the most important.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, does that mean with all of the different sensors you work with – because you have the application which interprets the data, and you work with a bunch of sensors from different providers, quite a few companies. Do you only work with providers which have the specification you just gave us? Do all of them fit that?
[Ronda Collier]: That’s right, that’s right. We support lots of shelf chest straps, like a Polar or a Zephyr, and there are a lot of Bluetooth heart rate monitors out there now, but now all of them work with Sweetwater. Some of them simply don’t transmit our intervals at all, and that is the beat-to-beat interval. So when I refer to R-R, that means the beat-to-beat intervals.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right, so you are saying that some of them only track the heart rate and they don’t track the difference?
[Ronda Collier]: That’s right. And then some transmit the R-R intervals, but they are not accurate.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Could you give us examples of that? Is it because they are dedicated to a different application? Why is that?
[Ronda Collier]: I think that a lot of the vendors are starting to realize they want to transmit R-R intervals, but they just haven’t spent the time on it yet I would imagine, because we have worked with several vendors who did not have accurate R-R intervals and then worked with us to get there. Their focus was to get the Bluetooth heart rate monitor out first with an accurate heart rate and the R-R intervals were a secondary item. Then once they worked with us they got those to be accurate.
So that is usually the vendor is not interested in the R-R interval or they are interested in getting them accurate.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right, and you think this is something that is changing, whereas people were just kind of focused on heart rate a few years ago, or three or four years ago, so these censors came out which didn’t look at the R-R now. Now would say most of them have this on their agenda in some way? Or is it still –
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, I would say so. There are a lot of off brands that we haven’t even heard of, much less tested, that our customers are finding and then emailing us saying that their HRV doesn’t look correct. So we go and usually write the vendor and ask them before we go purchase the item.
But yeah, there are a lot and I am really surprised at the number of small companies doing the Bluetooth, low-energy heart rate monitors.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: I guess that technology is relatively cheap, so there are a lot of chest straps and things like this that have come out. They haven’t necessarily done the full technical specification?
[Ronda Collier]: That’s right. So anyone that is going to use a heart rate variability app such as Sweetbeat or Sweetbeat Life, I recommend going to our website and selecting one of those, because we have tested those and we have actually measured that the R-R intervals are close to being correct.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So I guess the lesson here is there is no specific industry standard used by everyone. So if you were going to get something like Sweetbeat you should definitely go to your website, like you say, and check which ones are relevant – and it is probably going to be like that for a while, I guess?
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, yes. Even the ones that look like they are working, we do a detailed test. We are all engineers at Sweetwater – the founders are all three electrical engineers so we are very careful about making sure that one plus one equals two. So what we will do is say a three-minute Sweetbeat session and then we will dump the R-R intervals, and they better add up to three minutes.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Okay, and yours is always three minutes?
[Ronda Collier]: For the HRV reading, yes, that is for the athletic reading. But you can do five minutes or eight minutes, but the R-R intervals need to add up. And some of the heart rate monitors don’t and so we work with the vendors to try to get that more accurate, because we want to support them.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, and it is better for everyone if you can support more sensors. So there are a bunch of different things coming out. There are the chest straps, which we have spoken about – so you are working with Polar, 60Beat, Zephyr, and Wahoo. And then there are biosensors, where you have these plastics that stick to you, basically?
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, we just released our second product called Sweetbeat Life, and Sweetbeat Life works with what is called the health patch, which is a product by Vital Connect. So the health patch looks like a big band-aid, about three inches long, and that is an FDA-approved, single-lead EKG. It also measures respiration, body temperature, body surface temperature, calories burned – accurate, by the way, because it is measuring your body temperature and heart rate – as well as activity.
It is a real doozy, it has got everything in one. We are really excited about that because we are going to get a whole bunch of new metrics and be able to correlate that with heart rate variability and stress and provide more information.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That is great. How long does someone wear a patch like that for? How long does it work for?
[Ronda Collier]: That is a great question because we came up with a use model that Vital Connect never considered. Their original use model was it comes with a separate module, the patches are disposable and so you plug the module in and stick it on and their use model was you could wear it for three days until the battery dies.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: It’s 24 hours?
[Ronda Collier]: You can, yeah, if that is what you want to do. What we do is we just keep the plastic that goes on the back and rather than have to put a chest strap on in the morning when you are doing your morning HRV reading you actually reach over and grab your patch, stick your module in, and stick it on. And so I get the patch to last for over a month.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: You basically have this sticky part on you and then you just plug the electric part in every morning?
[Ronda Collier]: I peel the band-aid off, like take the band-aid off, and you pull the module out to save the battery, and I just have that sitting by my bedside. And in the morning I grab the band-aid and I stick the module back in and stick it back on.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Oh, so it sticks on and off without a problem, basically?
[Ronda Collier]: It does, and it is funny – different skin types can do it more than others. But if you are laying flat on the bed for your HRV morning reading it works pretty well for like a month.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: You said two interesting things there. The first was you said FDA-approved for EKG. So does the FDA approve certain monitors and sensors and say they are EKG standard?
[Ronda Collier]: You go through a process, basically, to get a device clearance. But yeah, so this particular one is FDA approved. And for over-the-counter, obviously, because we are selling it to consumers.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Do all of them have to be FDA approved?
[Ronda Collier]: No, this is a consumer product. Although we – our product is we want to have values that are clinical grade and we do tests to make sure they are accurate. And I do want to note that HRV is very sensitive to the data going in. So if you have the wrong R-R intervals or the wrong interbeat intervals you are not going to get accurate data. So it is super sensitive. So anyone who is interested in HRV, make sure that you are aware that you have a quality heart rate monitor, whatever that is.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Definitely, and I want to talk more about the accuracy and use cases. The other interesting thing that you said though was you are using it and it sounds like you are using the HRV for training in the morning. Is that your main use for it? How else do you use it yourself?
[Ronda Collier]: Well, I use it for HRV for training in the morning. I also use it to track my circadian rhythm. I am really curious what is going on with me, quite frankly, at naptime in the afternoon. And it is very interesting – my parasympathetic nervous system actually increases in the afternoon?
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Is that because you have a nap?
[Ronda Collier]: Yes, I will back up. Heart rate variability has a circadian rhythm, and I look to be curious, to see what is going on. And sure enough at 2:30 in the afternoon my parasympathetic or HF, HRV parameter increases.
I also use it especially early on with Sweetbeat. I used it when I was sitting at my desk to figure out what was going on and why I would get triggered. Because you are working all day and suddenly your neck hurts. And you are like, ‘What was I doing?’ You don’t even know because we do it all the time.
So I have actually learned that if a browser doesn’t load when I think it should, my face gets in the screen and I tense up.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: You told me about this at Quantified Self. I think everybody hates that and we just don’t really realize how much.
[Ronda Collier]: Well, the important point here is that if you can learn one thing that you are doing all the time, then you can reduce your stress.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, and is that an HRV reading? You are using the stress monitor with your HRV app for that?
[Ronda Collier]: Right, right.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Okay, and previously we have talked a bit about HRV for training, so I think the audience has a reasonable grip of that and then how that works. And we didn’t look at all on the stress side, and that is a different calculation. Can you talk a little bit about what is behind that? How does it use HRV and how is it different with HRV for training calculation?
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, absolutely, so the HRV for training calculation is based on – let me back up because I think it is better to give a high level of review. Heart rate variability, in itself, is just that – the variation of the heartbeats in the beat-to-beat intervals. It can be measured in several different ways. One is called time domain, or statistical analysis, like standard deviation. Root mean square of successive differences. The RMS, those are all typical statistical measures.
Then there is another way to measure the HRV and that is called frequency domain. And this is using [inaudible 00:16:43] fast forms and for you engineers out there, you kind of know what that is. And looking at the frequency components of the R-R intervals.
And then thirdly there is actually non-linear, which we are not using in Sweetbeat at this time. So the HRV for training uses a time domain parameter called RMSSD and that is a measure, it turns out, of your vagal tone. And the vagus nerve is the tenth of 12 cranial nerves in the nervous system, in the [inaudible 00:17:12] nervous system. And that particular piece of the nervous system is what gets fatigued during overtraining and endurance sports. So we measure that time domain measure for the HRV for training.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: And you were saying that you specifically use that because the research has been based mostly on that measure?
[Ronda Collier]: Yes, that’s right.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So just one clarification on that – when you have actual score in Sweetbeat, the last time I spoke to you, you said it was based on 100. Is that the natural log of RMSSD times 20, or are you using something different? I think iFleet uses the natural log times 20.
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, it is similar to iFleet but it is not the same.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So if you went out and got one and then a month later it broke or whatever and you went and got a different one, then you can’t have all of those values in Excel and compare it back for two months because they don’t necessarily fit?
[Ronda Collier]: No, no. And that’s actually a great point, Damien, because we have had people ask why is it different in iFleet? Because we use a different algorithm. We were 10,000 miles apart, having the same idea, but doing it differently.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So there is no industry standard, and it is basically because everyone decided it was going to be better to have it on a roughly 1 to 100 rating?
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, it is a consumer thing. But there is an industry standard for HRV, but it is in numbers that a consumer would have a hard time with.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Could you give us a quick example?
[Ronda Collier]: Sure, so RMSSD, depending on who you are and HRV is very individual – while you sit there and in three minutes it can go between let’s say 60 and 68 – and it will sit there and vary because your nervous system is very dynamic. And then maybe the next day you get up and it is 54. So these numbers are just not easy for people to deal with.
So by scaling it from 0 to 100 it is easier for people to understand.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, that makes sense.
[Ronda Collier]: The stress level, so that is the HRV for training piece. And then the stress level, we actually use the frequency calculations of HRV and we measure the low-frequency components, which correspond, in simple terms, to the sympathetic nervous system. Actually, it is a combination of sympathetic and parasympathetic, but mostly sympathetic-dominant.
And then the high-frequency components, which are a measure of your parasympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system. So for the stress level we look at those two and then we measure the balance between the two. So when you are sympathetic-dominant, you are stressed, sympathetic or fight-or-flight dominant, you are stressed. You want to actually be sympathetic-parasympathetic balanced.
But when you are really relaxing or just woke up in the morning and are sort of chilling, then you actually want to see yourself being a bit parasympathetic-dominant.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So if you are at work you would want to be a little bit sympathetic-dominant? So you are working on something and you are writing or doing a presentation?
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, you normally would be. But you don’t want to be chronically that way.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Okay, so you are saying that balance would be 1-1, so LF and HF would be equal?
[Ronda Collier]: Yes.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: What is bad? What kind of ratio is starting to look bad? Is it 2-1?
[Ronda Collier]: No, 2-1 is still pretty okay. You don’t want to be that way 27/7, but a lot of people are. When you start getting really bad is when you are over 4 or 5, which you would be surprised, is pretty darn common and people are even higher.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: And you were saying it is throughout the day?
[Ronda Collier]: Every time you do a measure you are always – you are sitting at your desk and you can never, ever, get anywhere near 3, no matter what you do.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Even if you do some relaxation techniques, some people can’t get it down?
[Ronda Collier]: They can’t get it down.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That would actually probably be me, because mine won’t. I know there are some specific reasons, it is not because I am a really stressed out individual. But yeah, that would be me. And I was worried about it a bit more at first until I learned a bit more and I spoke to you at Quantified Self about it.
What is yours, for example? You were talking about when you get stressed at your computer. What does that tend to go up to? What would it normally be if you -?
[Ronda Collier]: I will qualify that with I have been meditating for a very long time. And I did a lot of coherence training with Heartmath for years, and so I will qualify that. But I am pretty balanced. Mine will go up to maybe 2 or 3, which is if I am really stressed. Otherwise I am usually anywhere between 0.8 to 1.5.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That sounds ideal, I guess? Is that?
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, I am pretty balanced. I have worked hard to make my life that way, by the way. It was not always the case. I used to do chip design, which is very high pressure at Silicon Valley startup companies. I wish I had this app then because it would be interesting to see what I was running on, probably full time.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: I was just going to ask you – that would be so interesting to know how that sort of evolved over time. And especially – this is when I started more meditation, this is when I did this, and you could see the steps down. Because I recently started – I didn’t really know how to track my meditation and if it was effective in any way. And I have been looking for a way to track it for a while.
So these days I go to the part and I switch on Heartmath. I have been using Heartmath to just track my meditation and it seems to be getting better, but honestly I don’t understand the difference between that and say the HRV for stress reading. Could you give me – like, could I use both of these for meditation and try and track how effective my meditation is? Or do you think that is not a reasonable use of it?
[Ronda Collier]: It is. This is a great question and we get this all the time in our support questions. Heartmath is a coherence training device or app, and what that does is get you into a state, basically getting your nervous system and all of your nervous system operating a – it’s called coherent, but in the frequency domain all you have is a little bit of energy at your breathing rate of 0.1 hertz.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: You told me once before that this was in the LF zone?
[Ronda Collier]: And that falls into the LF. We don’t define what makes HF and what makes LF. So LF is 0.04 to 0.15 hertz, and HF is 0.15 hertz to 0.4 hertz, and that is an industry standard because we follow the HRV standards, and that is what it is.
So if you do coherence training you are going to have a huge spike if you are coherent at 0.1 hertz. And you won’t have anything anywhere else, because that is what coherent is. There is not going to be any energy in the HF range at all, or anywhere else, even in the VLF range, which are the very low frequencies.
So really it is a spike there at 0.1 hertz. And so that will show up as high stress in our app; however, if you are meditating and not doing regular breathing, your breathing normally and then you should be able to see your nervous system actually have a power increase. So that could be a measure of your meditative quality.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Do you mean the HF, the parasympathetic, would increase?
[Ronda Collier]: Actually, you could see the whole thing increase. It will stay balanced but the whole thing can increase.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: I will go and try this for a few days. I go and meditate and I switch it on to the stress and then there is a chart in your app which looks at the LF and the HF and it shows it charting over time. Is that the screen you would look at?
[Ronda Collier]: That’s right, and Sweetbeat Life actually does it in real time now.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Okay, what is the difference?
[Ronda Collier]: It doesn’t show LF and HF graph in real time. Sweetbeat shows it in numbers in real time, but Sweetbeat Life, if you go to the landscape mode on the monitor screen, it shows it in real time. So it is a little more intuitive if you are meditating to look at a graph than read numbers.
Be aware though, if you have been doing Heartmath you just go coherent. When I meditate, I just automatically go coherent now so I don’t use it for that anymore. But I do use it in [inaudible 00:25:07].
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Did you say you don’t go coherent in meditation anymore?
[Ronda Collier]: I do go coherent. All I have to do is think about meditating and I am coherent.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Oh, okay. And if you look at the research I am not actually sure that meditation correlates with coherence all the time. And actually if you look on the forums in various places, you will see some people who have been meditating for a while and they try to use Heartmath or something else and when they are in their usual meditation zone, they get a lack of coherence. THey go out of coherence and then when they focus on getting coherent, they go in under coherent. So I don’t know if there needs to be more research done around that. Do you know anything about that?
[Ronda Collier]: Once your nervous system is trained for coherence, and this is my experience, and our other founder Donna Lever, also as soon as she sits down to meditate, she is not trying to go coherent and she doesn’t have a device, but we go coherent. If you want to, you have to be mindful about not doing that regular breathing that brings you coherence. So there are a lot of meditative techniques where you breath in and hold at the top and focus and then that goes – so you just would do a different breathing technique.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right, and breathing does seem to be essential. I think it makes quite a big difference in the Heartmath side. In your app – let’s move back to Sweetwater – does breathing make a big difference to stress numbers, the LF and the HF, in your app?
[Ronda Collier]: Absolutely. While we are not a coherence training device, if you go coherent you are going to see it. And so it will look like – you will see it once again as a spike at LF and so it will show up as stress.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, which in your app would be red, I am guessing?
[Ronda Collier]: That’s right, the stress levels are blue, green, yellow, orange, and red; however, you would be able to look at your power numbers and see what you are doing. You would want to see a super high power number in the LF.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right, and so in your case when you were doing meditation, specifically, you would look at the LF and the HF screen, rather than the bar with the ratings? But just for general stress like you are talking about, you want to understand a situation like if you are stressed or not and if you are feeling a bit rough or looking at your screen and not feeling good or for presentation or whatever – would you use the LH-HF screen or would you use the bar with the red and the yellow and so on?
[Ronda Collier]: I think I would use the bar initially – for your listeners, definitely just use the bar and then once you start figuring out what you are looking at then you can actually look at the LF and HF and that can become second nature, once you are done with the bar then we tend to look at the geek screen at the LF and HF.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right, and then as you said higher power is good as well as the ratio?
[Ronda Collier]: That’s right. When you are really feeling kind of dragging, if you look at the power numbers you could be – I am going to make numbers up. I have had listeners quote my numbers and there is so much variety in HRV numbers, so I am just going to use some average numbers. Some days your LF and your HF might be around 100 or less.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Both of them?
[Ronda Collier]: Yes, somewhere around there.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So is that a bad day?
[Ronda Collier]: For me that is a bad day. That is a low day where my energy is zapped or I have done something where I am emotionally or physically drained. Then there are other days where you are just on top of the world and you are at 2,000 to 3,000. So that is where you won’t see that from looking at the bar from blue to red, but you will see that looking at your numbers.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: My numbers would be like – most of the time my LF is like 1,800 and my HF is like 200 or 300, if I am lucky. So if my HF isn’t high enough –
[Ronda Collier]: That’s right. And Heartmath should, over time, improve that.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: It definitely helps and you can feel it. I guess you recommend to do this kind of thing, but once you identify something that is stressing you in your life and you do a Heartmath session or a meditative session and use the device, then you definitely come back afterwards and you have got more energy, you can get back to what you are doing, and it definitely makes a huge difference in my productivity. Once I discovered this it was pretty much a game changer for how I work.
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, and you bring up a great point. One of the reasons that we created Sweetbeat was to not only provide you with feedback that you would go off and meditate or chill, but to provide you with real-time feedback so you can actually, right then and there, go, ‘Oh, I am doing this and I have been doing it all the time and I didn’t even know it.’ And then learn to actually correct your behavior right then and there. Put your shoulders back, uncross your legs, sit back, take a deep breath at your desk, and then reset.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right, and so the idea is that you can be watching the screen and you can watch when your numbers readjust or go back to normal and then you can tell when you are in a better state.
[Ronda Collier]: That’s right, and then next time Sweetbeat gives you an alert if you change your stress state and you can program it to do that. So that is how I learned about the screen thing. Other customers have used it while they are driving and it starts beep, and they realize that they have just stressed out over something that they deal with every day. And so it brings to consciousness things that have been previously unconscious that are contributing to heart disease and hypertension in middle age.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Would you say this is the most common use case? I was going to ask what you find people are using the most. I guess you have this big database now with everyone’s data. I am not even sure if you have come to grips with that because you have all this data.
[Ronda Collier]: We have not come to grips with it yet. It is going to be a huge issue. What we do is when customers write in and want to know about their data we can help them with an analysis if we have time. We go ahead and look at some of their sessions and give them sort of a bird’s eye view of what is going on for them and so we are still doing that.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, but you can’t do things like understand what, on average, the users are using that for?
[Ronda Collier]: Oh we do, and we have done that. We have a large percentage – the micro market is lead athletes and even fitness enthusiasts using it to guide their training.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right, so that is every morning as soon as they wake up?
[Ronda Collier]: That is that group. That group is also using it throughout the day, running 20, 30-minute sessions just to see how they are doing. Then there is the other market segment, which are quantified selfers and they are wanting to run it for like 8 hours.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right, to see where they spike?
[Ronda Collier]: Absolutely. They want to run a session all day and then they want to sleep in it. They are just running it constantly.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: When I first got mine I wanted to do it 24 hours and I think I even wrote to you about it.
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, your phone won’t hold all that – there is a lot of data.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That’s what you told me.
[Ronda Collier]: But with the health patch we are working on making that a little easier for folks. So the health patch will make the full time monitoring much more accessible because it is actually comfortable and you don’t even know it is there. You can sleep in it without the strap on you, though some people don’t mind. I don’t sleep well with the strap, but the little health patch just sits there and it is not a big deal.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Anyway, the idea behind the 8-hour or the 24-hour is people are trying to figure out, and using the stress monitor, what kinds of things are triggering them throughout the day. This is what they are doing, right? They are just mapping the whole day and they are like, ‘Hmm, at 1 o’clock and 3 o’clock I got really stressed out, what was I doing?’ and that kind of thing?
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, that’s right. And also they are tracking LF and HF. A lot of the folks have gotten big into looking at those numbers because once again, the stress meter only tells you the balance of LF and HF. The numbers themselves tell you the power levels.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So it is more interesting once you start looking at LF and HF?
[Ronda Collier]: People love the power levels, so yeah, it is really great and we were really pleased with that.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, is there a more detailed understanding though? As you have already described? A lot of people probably want to get their HF up higher and I guess there are two ways to look at it as the baseline, where you are from day-to-day. And I don’t know if you do kind of averages of how people evolve over time and they manage to address that kind of baseline versus –
[Ronda Collier]: You are bringing up a really important point for your listeners. Because HRV has a circadian rhythm, if you are going to do a day-to-day comparison you need to do it at approximately at the same time in the same position. If you are laying down and then stand up your heart rate increases to equalize the blood pressure. So really your position is important.
Also, your mental state will be important. So if you measure it at the same time each day but one day you are all stressed because something happened in your family, your HRV is going to be different. That is why we recommend that people do it first thing in the morning and really mindfully don’t start thinking about your day because that can affect the reading.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, what I do every morning now is I lie down and then I do a standing up reading as well. Which do you do? Do you both or do you just do lying down or standing up?
[Ronda Collier]: Well I just do lying down. I am lying in bed and I am not thinking, because once I get up then my mind starts thinking about my day and so that can affect the readings. We have done measurements where something was going on in my family and I was just sitting here and already had the strap on when I was testing in the early days and something happened and just from my thought and looking at what happened my stress soared right in front of my eyes and it was kind of crazy.
Our other founder, Joe Beth Dow, had the same thing happen. So really your mental and emotional state, if you are going to do the day-to-day comparison, you need to be mindful of that. And if you see it drop just really go inside and go, ‘What am I feeling sick? Or sad, or angry, or upset, or something like that.’
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right, to kind of detect if it is something you are causing yourself or if it is the underlying how you are feeling today, that is a good point.
[Ronda Collier]: That’s right. It can be physical, emotional, psychological, or environmental.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, I can definitely relate to what you are saying about it is easier when you are lying down when you first get up and then you tend not to think about it so much. But I do the lying down one and then I do the standing up one and I tend to start thinking about things. And I have to kind of catch myself, especially if I am thinking about work or something. So I think you are totally right about that, if you are going to do the standing one it is good to keep in mind that it is at the same time.
The other thing is movement. HRV for training is a very specific, three-minute reading. So you either do it lying down or standing up or sitting down.
[Ronda Collier]: Do your three-minute reading and you are done, yeah.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: And you always do it the same just to keep it the same. How about movement? I guess some people doing these 8-hour cycles are also tracking all sorts of things throughout the day. Is it relevant to track HRV while you are moving? Is that an accurate reading? I had some experience with this before and I couldn’t really figure it out. What is your take on that?
[Ronda Collier]: That is another great question. You should see your heart rate variability changing through the day. When you go from sitting to standing or lying down to standing your heart rate should increase and your sympathetic should increase to increase that heart rate. So you should see nice cycles throughout the day. If you are not then that is a serious problem and that would be indicative of someone with some heart disease.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: You are saying if the power levels aren’t changing, as you are doing different things?
[Ronda Collier]: That’s right, or even the stress level, which is the balance because I will repeat the example and when you are lying down and standing up – when you go supine to standing your sympathetic nervous system kicks in to increase your heart rate, to pump your blood, or to equalize the blood pressure. And that is normal.
For people who have low HRV to a point that maybe it is a heart disease, they have a hard time and their heart can’t respond and their nervous system is brittle, if you will. And so when they go from lying down to standing up their heart rate doesn’t increase the way it should.
And so if you were to go throughout your day in 8 hours and not see a lot of variety in your power levels and your stress levels, that would be a problem.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: The HRV readings are accurate in terms of the LF and the HF – it is accurate data when you are moving around it is just that it is changing a lot. So your HRV should go down, I guess? In this case it is going to be the stress. So would you be more stressed when you are moving around, if I am walking or running it is going to be more sympathetic? Or can it vary per person?
[Ronda Collier]: It really depends. We were wearing it at CES the last year, or the last two years, and these kind of things usually stress me out. I guess I decided that I am not going to let trade shows stress me out anymore. I did, actually, mindfully because I will just go bonkers. And I needed to be present to go talk to all the people were were going to meet with.
And so I was walking around CES with a completely balanced green to yellow stress, which is pretty good. And really the numbers were high and I was just in a good space. Now, if you are running and exercising then your HRV is going to drop and that is just the nature of the beast.
But it is really more about that you are going to see the variation when you stand up and sit down and sit down and stand up or have an emotional stressor, or anger or environmental something coming at you.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, so it is not that there aren’t any people using this to track their exercise – are they tracking their HRV or their stress?
[Ronda Collier]: Oh, these guys use it for everything.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Is there any research behind that? What kind of understanding could you get?
[Ronda Collier]: Sweetbeat was not designed to be used while you exercise. There are some things you can glean from that. In fact, you can see where you hit aerobic to anaerobic if you know what you are looking at.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That is interesting.
[Ronda Collier]: It is, it is very interesting. We just having pursued that, but I can see it.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Can you give us a quick add to that or is it more complicated?
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, it is okay – so your stress level goes up and your whole power levels just plummet. Your HRV plummets because everything is moving so quickly. And when you hit that threshold your stress level on the colored bar actually goes down when you hit that threshold, so that is the easiest way because your HF actually kicks in.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Your HF you are saying will go up when anerobic starts?
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, and remember you are down in numbers in the teens now. So your listeners that want to try it, yeah.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, they should try that out.
[Ronda Collier]: Look at the geek screen and watch the numbers. Pay attention and then you will be in the red and then suddenly when you go a little harder it will back down and the bars will be like in the yellow and in the green.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Wow, that is really interesting. That would be interesting if you guys do something with that later.
[Ronda Collier]: And there is a bunch of research on that too. It is so dynamic and it is kind of hard to do in an app, but we think about it.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So I guess you will have some complicated algorithms you will have to develop and it might take some more research. It would be interesting if you could do that because currently the tests – I looked at different breath tests and so on you can do to establish anaerobic threshold. And it is not easy, you have to go to the labs and mess around. So eventually if we had an app like your iPhone app that would be really cool.
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, I have done one and they pushed me too hard – I need to warm up. I do. And so they got completely wrong measures, said my max heart rate was like 150, which is just not true. I go to the gym and hit 165 all the time but I need to ramp up. So going on a full-force run in the first minute just doesn’t work for my body.
It would be cool to have an app that would let people – there needs to be a protocol because we have done enough looking into it with that, but not in the first minute, come on.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: You have probably got your hands full with all the other stuff going on in your app already, so it is probably not for tomorrow. I just want to go back and we have touched on circadian rhythm a few times, saying how it distorts the figures. So I want to make sure the audience doesn’t get confused with that point. Is there a specific pattern? If I am looking at stress over the day, is there any way I can picture it in my mind so it will be a bit higher at this point or a bit lower at this point?
How do you look at the circadian rhythm? I guess the first thing to say is if you are doing HRV for training it should be at the same time every day? I woke up at one time at 4 o’clock in the morning, which I sometimes do, and then other times I will wake up at 8 o’clock and do my reading then. And one day I did it at 4 o’clock and it was completely different. It was actually a lot worse and I don’t know if that fits the typical theory. But I was like, ‘I think I better take this a bit later.’
[Ronda Collier]: It’s going to be individual, but typically – and I am just going to give you a typical case. Your HRV will be highest in the 6 am, 7 am, 8 am. And then it dips down in the early afternoon and then it comes back up in the evening.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: And then it stays up during the night?
[Ronda Collier]: While you are sleeping your HF really should kick in and that is why people measure it when they are sleeping. If your HF isn’t kicking in then you are maybe not getting very good sleep.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That’s me, but we won’t get into that. That is why at 4 o’clock it was terrible. So you basically gave us the outline there. So in terms of stress that would be reflected in the stress levels as well, so you are saying in the afternoon you probably have the worst stress levels? It would be harder to be non-stressed in the afternoon, is that what you are saying?
[Ronda Collier]: Actually, I can give you mean. All I have is research numbers, so the only thing I can tell you from personally looking at the HF and LF numbers are that my HF kicks in the afternoon, which causes my heart rate to decrease, and I am sleepy.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Is that because you have trained yourself to have a nap?
[Ronda Collier]: But everything is low, so my HF will go from maybe 3,000 in the morning down to 900. But I am still HF-dominant, so once again, that goes back to the power numbers. They are just really – once people use Sweetbeat and get used to the stress levels then really dive into the power numbers because that is saying so much about what is going on for you.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: And so your aim there is – 3,000 sounds incredible, like for my levels. You are saying that over time you would really like to get the HF up, that is the idea? To increase the power of the HF?
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, most people want their HF up because they are sympathetic-dominant and kind of chronically stressed. So we have done a few case studies with yoga, so actually a young woman was one of the case studies in her early 20s who just felt stressed out, always. So her HRV was always on the low side and she was sympathetic-dominant. So she did yoga twice a week for six months and brought that into balance. She raised her power levels and brought herself much closer to balance.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: How was she tracking that? Or how would you advise if someone is doing a long term intervention like that where they are doing classes twice a week or they are doing meditation once every day, how would you advise them to best use the app to track that?
[Ronda Collier]: I would do the HRV for training but if you are looking at LF and HF, I should mention this, it is better to have a five-minute reading or longer because with our algorithm, once again we use the industry standards for heart rate variability and there is what is called a short-term measure, which is five minutes, and a long-term measure, which is 24 hours.
So our algorithm is designed for a minimum 5-minute window. So you would not want to really use HRV for training because that is designed for the time domain accuracy and it is not the best. You are not going to get the most accurate LF and HF in the three minute, but you want a five minute.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Great, so your HRV for training switches on and off and it does the three minute and then it is finished. It is all built in so you don’t have to worry about that and it is going to do it for you?
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, that’s right.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: But what you are saying is that for the stress monitor it is labeled stress monitor in your app, as I remember, and that one you have to do for five minutes?
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, at least. And usually you just want to put it on either right when you get up in the morning and do that, or still when you are kind of relaxed somewhere, maybe watching TV in the evening, or pick a time when you are kind of unwinding. So if you are doing the six-month intervention, pick a time a couple of times a week or every day that you go ahead and measure yourself and the history and the charting and you can see what your trends are.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So ideally that is the same time every day and should be the same activity, like you are saying – if it is always watching TV, although I think if you are watching an action film versus a romantic film or something it might have a little bit of an impact there too, so you have to watch out for that. Great.
[Ronda Collier]: That’s right, and if you have a favorite program that you always watch you should measure during that.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So you mentioned yoga – are there interventions that you know people have done in your user base? Are there examples of good things to try out in terms of experiments? What would be the top five things to try to raise the baseline?
[Ronda Collier]: Definitely yoga and meditation, those kind of go together. Nutrition, of all things, stop eating anything that is out of a box. Read the labels and if there an ingredient you can’t pronounce, don’t eat it.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So that would be easy if you start a diet on the first of the month. And then you can, over time, probably see some change over the next weeks if it is a positive change or a negative change?
[Ronda Collier]: That’s right, because our bodies are completely interdependent and interconnected. All the systems are connected to the other. Sweetbeat also has, which I haven’t mentioned, a food sensitivity test. And it allows you to test for foods that you may not be allergic to but you are sensitive to. And these foods can actually cause your heart rate to increase by quite a bit, even if you are just sitting.
So we have case study after case study of people sitting quietly at their desk, watching TV, or relaxing, and their heart rate goes up 20 beats after eating the offending food.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Did you base that on research? Where did that come from?
[Ronda Collier]: It’s called Dr. Coca’s Pulse Test – I think it is Coca’s Pulse Test. And Dr. Arthur Coca was a renowned immunologist in the 50s, founder of the journal of immunology, so he was quite well-known at the time. And he came up with this simple test to help his wife, who was having issues where they couldn’t find it in allergy tests, but they were suspecting that she was allergic. And so he came up with this pulse test for her and so she was able to fix a whole lot of ailments by using the pulse tests and eliminating offending foods.
And so all of the inflammation and all of that interacts with cortisol. There is stress cortisol and that is why I mentioned nutrition, because it is all interrelated and so if you are eating things that you could even be slightly sensitive to it can affect your heart rate variability.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Is it in peer-reviewed journals, this kind of research, as well? Or is it Dr. Coca’s? It sounds like it makes logical sense. Has anyone done any studies on it to validate it?
[Ronda Collier]: I could not find any peer-reviewed journals on this; however, they do teach it in medical school so a lot of allergists know about it. So yeah, it is very interesting that I have been unable to find any because we at Sweetwater go to the National Institute of Health database for our research. We want peer-reviewed research that will back up our algorithms. So yeah, the Coca pulse test, no, but a lot of functional medicine doctors, MD or not, use the pulse test and are familiar with it.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So it is worth finding out to see if there is something?
[Ronda Collier]: Absolutely.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Is there anything you would advice – and maybe you don’t know about this – but say if something is showing up and it looks like an analogy, what would be the next step for someone to try to get more validation around that? Have you got any suggestions, or is that something kind of out of your area?
[Ronda Collier]: Take it out of your diet. If you eat something, what the app does is if you are wearing a heart rate monitor it automatically will take your pulse at 30, 60, and 90 minutes. And assuming you are not out running or exercising, if your heart rate increases then that is not good.
So what you would do is note that and basically remove the offending food.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, so a lot of functional doctors these days advise – because a lot of the allergy tests aren’t that consistent either, so a lot of them advise you on elimination anyway. So I guess if you really wanted to validate it afterwards, don’t eat it for a month. And then eat it again and see what happens to you or if you feel worse, and again do the test with your app, for example. That is probably the next best thing to do?
[Ronda Collier]: That’s right. I wasn’t testing anything but I ate – and a reasonable, regular serving of cherries about a month ago. And I was just sitting at my desk and I was testing the Sweetbeat for something else and I wasn’t doing a food test, but I noticed my heart rate was 79. My resting heart rate is about 50 and I was like, ‘What is this all about?’
So I looked it up and a lot of people are sensitive to cherries. And I could feel my heart pounding. And so I am really aware, and I am going to retest cherries.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: You are probably becoming a lot more aware about yourself and notice a lot more things because what I have found when you are using these kinds of apps it kind of validates tiny little – like if you feel a little bit off, it starts to validates you and you start to get more confidence in trusting yourself and starting to notice more because of that. So it is probably not something you are telling everyone, but using these HRV apps for this kind of apps for this kind of thing can help build your awareness of yourself over time as well.
[Ronda Collier]: That reminds me, sort of back to what people have done to improve their HRV. [inaudible 00:49:14] cofounder, walking in the park, in green – she learned a few things because her HRV was on the low side when we started Sweetwater and now even through a whole bunch of life events, a mother passing away and so her HRV has continued to increase through the years because she learned the things that increase it so she does them every day, versus doing them haphazardly.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Let’s get back onto the – what other kinds of things have we missed? We talked about yoga and meditation.
[Ronda Collier]: That is another one, we have done some research on – another one is acupuncture so we have done lots of case studies and actually there is peer-reviewed research on acupuncture. We have done some ourselves and your nervous system just balances and power levels increase during and after an acupuncture session, so that was another interesting one.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That is quite a controversial area. I know there is a lot of functional doctors who really support it and there is also a fair amount of research there. But when you bring up acupuncture a lot of people find it controversial still.
[Ronda Collier]: Well that is changing, and insurance reimburses acupuncture for people with arthritis. So Western medicine does acknowledge and that is why there are a lot of peer-reviewed papers surrounding acupuncture. They know and they can measure that the pain receptors have changed, specifically around the points for arthritis treatment.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Well here is the thing – I think acupuncture is a bit of an art, so some people might be better at it than others? Is that the way that it works? Could you evaluate the quality of the acupuncture you are getting based on the impact on HRV?
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, absolutely. I have a good acupuncturist so I have seen my nervous system change about 20 to 30 minutes after the needles go in, which is about what you should expect. Another is chiropractic – we hold our stress in our bodies and there are, once again, peer-reviewed papers on chiropractic and HRV.
You can see whether the adjustment made a difference to you or not, so it is sort of an objective measure in general to some of these treatment venues that some people are not sure of, like acupuncture and chiropractic. You can actually measure whether it made a difference.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, so it is useful, especially if you are doing something new that you are not sure about, whether it is yoga or whatever you are trying that is new. I guess it also help your motivation, so if you can see the numbers changing it is this low thing, but if you can see that positive feedback you are like, ‘Oh, this is making a difference.’ Whereas sometimes – that can give you more motivation just to keep at it because you can see things changing.
So I know we have gone on quite a long time here and I wanted to make sure we cover a couple of other things, which is your new app and the correlation in particular, which has been added. Is there anything else new that has been added or is that the main thing?
[Ronda Collier]: Better graphing features and like I said, some of the real-time graphs. The Vital Connect patch so you can see real-time calories burned, once again accurate. I have a Fitbit so don’t get me wrong, but it is not accurate. Neither are the machines at the gym, by the way, but this gives a real accurate calorie burn.
It also gives – let’s see, respiration, body temperature, and calorie burn. It does measure number of steps and all that, as well as all of our HRV values.
What is new in Sweetbeat Life besides the Vital Connect patch, which has all that new information for you in real time – we have a correlation feature that allows you to basically correlate your HRV and stress levels to all the other parameters in the Vital Connect patch as well as correlate to your Fitbit, the number of steps you are taking, your calories burned, your calories eaten, and we also connect to Withings, so we have the withings scale and so your weight is in there as well as the Withings blood pressure.
One can learn what am I doing when my HRV is good? How many steps, how many calories? Or what am I doing when my weight is where I want or not want? I personally learned that it is not calories in versus calories out for me that helped me get to my desired weight – and we are talking three pounds here and it is important. It is the calorie out. I need to eat more and burn more and then I actually can lose weight easier. So that was important for me.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right, so you are saying you saw a correlation with intake and activity levels?
[Ronda Collier]: That’s right, burning 1500 and eating 1200 I didn’t lose weight. But eating 1700 and eating 1400, I did. And so that was really important for me. And a lot of people will be concerned about what they are doing to maintain the proper blood pressure or stress levels and so on, so it is really a great tool to bring meaning to all this data.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: And when did you launch this? I think it is the early stages in the understanding of the use cases.
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, we launched in May. And if anyone does decide to try out Sweetbeat life, we have great videos embedded in all the screens now. For the correlation function we have put a lot of information on a very simple screen, so it is very important to watch the video and pay attention. Because once you know what you are looking at then you hit the buttons and there are all these buttons to see all this great information and you know what you are looking at.
But when you first go looking at it, you are not going to understand it, so please do take the time to look at the video. That is just the nature of trying to convey a lot of information on a small screen.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, and so what are your plans for that? Right now the correlations are between data of the Fitbit data and the Withings scale. What are the main areas people are correlating?
[Ronda Collier]: And the map my fitness, to measure how many mets your workouts are as well – just adding more, first we are going to stay where we are right now and get customer feedback on this. Once again, it is a lot of information crammed into one tiny screen, so we want to get that right first and find out what is useful to the customers and then do an iteration there and then just start adding more of the popular tracking devices.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah and it sounds like you are going to learn as you go because you don’t know what is going to correlate either. And eventually patterns are going to pop out so it is going to be more interesting to integrate with some devices versus others.
[Ronda Collier]: That’s right, and one of our favorite scenarios is with the athletes that have been training using Sweetbeat and measuring all these things with let’s say blood pressure, weight, you name it, for a year and then they have Iron Man coming up. What we want to do is provide them with meaningful information of what they were doing that consistently got them into the most rested and ready state.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, like you were saying if they have six months of data or whatever that would be pretty amazing.
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, and then they can go back and create this is what I was doing that consistently gets me to where I want to be the morning of the race, and so this is what I am going to do.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Whose idea is this? I don’t think anyone else is doing this yet. Obviously this is where people have been talking that things should go in terms of correlation.
[Ronda Collier]: This was our idea and oddly enough this came from an app challenge that we were going to do with Qualcomm Life. And Qualcomm Life collects data from so many different devices and so we were just going how can we show the value of the Qualcomm Life platform? And so that is what really led us to do this at the timing that we did it. So we are very grateful to Qualcomm LIfe for having that app challenge when they did because it really pushed us to get this together. So we really are the first people creating useful information besides just a dashboard with charts for all this data that everyone is collecting.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, and it will be interesting to see what kind of experiments they try to run and what correlations they can come up with. So how many users do you have using the Sweetbeat versus the new one? It has been out since May?
[Ronda Collier]: The new one has only been out since May so we have under 1,000 on Sweetbeat Life and tens of thousands on Sweetbeat.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: I know you have got all this data – have you got any plans to try and sort through any of that? What are the most exciting things coming up next that you have ideas about? Or do you have ideas that you hope to do in the next two years?
[Ronda Collier]: I would have to kill you if I told you.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: I thought it might be something like that.
[Ronda Collier]: We have a lot – that’s all of our secret road map. But we are doing some really cool stuff coming up and we are so excited, that is all I can say. And the health patch has really enabled this because it opens up a whole new market of people that frankly are not going to wear a chest app. They are just not going to put it on, so the patch really makes it more accessible. That allows us to create products for an audience beyond the Quantified Self hacker that will stick to the strap on or the athletes that already have straps.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: How much does the patch cost?
[Ronda Collier]: So the starter kit is $199 and that comes with five patches and the electronic module.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So it is like $40 a patch, and they last – you said you used yours for -?
[Ronda Collier]: Well the replacement patches are $20, so a month or more depending on what you are doing with it .The price point is high because it is a brand new product, but that is going to be coming down as the volume ramps up, obviously.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: It is brand new and I saw it.
[Ronda Collier]: It is brand spanking new. The only place you can get the health patch right now is through Sweetbeat, and we are the first app out with it. Consumers can expect that number to coming down in the years to come, like I said, as the volumes ramp.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Great, thank you very much. Just a couple of questions more about you and the way you use data in your life. What would be your number one recommendation to someone trying to use some form of data to make better decisions about their body’s health performance? What would be your number one recommendation?
[Ronda Collier]: Actually I think our correlation feature is our number one recommendation for me because it is giving you really useful information. HRV, for your listeners, should be measured along with your blood pressure, your weight, and your cholesterol because HRV perturbations are early indications to something that hasn’t shown up physically yet.
So if you are monitoring your HRV as you go through your life and you suddenly saw a drop, a consistent drop, then there is a problem. And then with the correlation feature you may be able to go back and see other aspects start to change with the lowering HRV. You can’t take one thing in isolation.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So you are using it as a discovery problem that you can’t see, because most health problems in our life take us by surprise.
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, so I have the Withings scale and the blood pressure cuff and a Fitbit and I use iFitness.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So it is like risk management?
[Ronda Collier]: That is right, that is right, and learning what I can do. Sometimes, especially with weight loss, people are like, ‘I don’t know – I count calories and I do this and I do that. Why am I not losing weight?’ Then suddenly they will lose a couple of pounds and this will give some really useful feedback. I also want to mention on that vein that getting accurate calorie burn during the day – if you are really on a serious need and you need to lose 40 or 50 pounds, that is a long haul.
And 200 calories a day is a big deal when you are tracking, so getting an accurate calorie burn throughout the day is important. So really being more accurate, and Sweetwater health is really about more accurate feedback for the consumers and athletes.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, because there are a lot of apps out there and they are definitely not the same. I got the Mybasis watch and I think you know that compares unfavorably to some of the other trackers.
[Ronda Collier]: Yeah, we bought a Basis to check it out. And you have to wear it too tight on your wrist that it is not comfortable if you want heart rate. And it just doesn’t match my outfit.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right, and just talking about the My Basis quickly, the reason you can’t do heart rate variability is that they are just not sampling quickly enough? Have you looked into it?
[Ronda Collier]: Any wrist face device, like [inaudible 01:00:52] use pulse oximetry, so what they are looking at are the capillaries in your skin as they expand and contract, so it is just very difficult to get very accurate beat times.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right, so they are using averages to get the heart rate and they need way more accuracy to get to heart rate variability, which is more difficult than a heart rate. On My Basis if you start running around it starts losing track because your heart rate is moving, so it can’t even keep track of your heart rate.
[Ronda Collier]: Because it is motion and the pulse oximeters are very motion-sensitive because they are basically measuring capillaries and if you move your skin the capillaries are moving. And so Mio, just for those athletes, the Mio Alpha has done a terrific job of eliminating motion artifacts. You can actually use that one while you are running and still get an accurate heart rate.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: A heart rate, but not heart rate variability.
[Ronda Collier]: No, and they want to do heart rate variability but they are also engineers and so they just know that they can’t.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: They are struggling but potentially one day that technology might –
[Ronda Collier]: Potentially one day, yeah. If you can get the processing power without draining the battery in a watch it can be done.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: You have probably told us some of this already. What data metrics do you track for your own body on a routine basis, like the things that you would keep in mind every month or every six months? What are the key five things that you think are most important for yourself?
[Ronda Collier]: I keep track of my HRV and I am aware of my blood pressure. I am also aware of my resting heart rate and I don’t know why, but I want to know. Mine actually drops low sometimes so I am worried on that end, it gets around 40 and I sort of want to keep an eye on that. I weigh myself, and weighing yourself every day is stupid, sorry. I weigh myself probably once every month or two and keep track of that.
You don’t want to – because pounds creep up and suddenly you are ten pounds overweight. And I track my steps because I work at home and you want to make sure you are moving your body. I exercise every day but man, if i don’t go out to the gym or go hike or do something like that –
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Thank you very much for that. it is always interesting to hear what different people are focused on, especially when you are so involved in tracking yourself, so it is always interesting to hear what you focus on. Ronda, this has been an exceptional interview with tons of detailed information about how your app works and how you can use it. Thank you very much for your time today.