For people suffering from Orthostatic Intolerance, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia, Mast Cell Activtation or EDS. Follow me as I document my struggle towards better health.

Choosing a Heart Rate Monitor for Orthostatic Intolerance and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)

Timex T5G971 Unisex Sports Personal Heart Rate Monitor WatchI had received some emails asking which heart rate monitor I would recommend to use for POTS exercise training.  When performing Dr. Levine's exercise protocol for POTS or for other programs for POTS or OI, it is critical that all cardio exercises are performed within specific heart rate ranges with the objective to strengthen the heart muscle and improve cardiovascular performance.  Obviously a reliable heart rate monitor is essential to keeping a close eye on what your heart rate is doing.

Omron HR-100C Heart Rate MonitorHeart rate monitors are made up of two different components; the sensor and the receiver.  Sensors can be built into the receiver like the Timex T5G971 sport watch or they can be built into a separate chest strap sensor.

There are a few different types of wireless signals used by monitors which you should be aware of: the POLAR wireless signal is proprietary to POLAR and one of the first ever to be used for the purpose.  At a 5.3 Khz frequency it has a very short range and can be confusing at the gym when your heart rate signal gets mixed up with the guy next to you doing a marathon "spinning" session.   However, many gym equipment manufacturers have built POLAR receivers into their machines; a consideration if you work out regularly at a gym.

The newer standard is a digital 2.4 Ghz frequency.  Used by Nike+ and POLAR Wind in a proprietary format, it is also available in an open standard called ANT+ that allows for interoperability between devices such as the iPhone or other smartphones.  The 2.4Ghz ANT+ also is a low-power consumer so you don't have to change batteries nearly as often as the POLAR 5.3Khz models.

What I look for in a heart rate monitor
#1  Clarity of the Display
When I am on the rowing machine gasping and panting, I prefer not to have to squint at a tiny display to see what my heart rate is doing.  A large visible screen that can be easily read when eyes are full of perspiration is important.

#2  Will work when wet
Garmin Unisex HR Monitor Waterproof Soft Strap Color: BlackIn the summertime, I love to do my cardio in the pool. Finding a monitor that works reliably when swimming is a challenge. Water can get in between the sensor and skin to interrupt the connection which is a nuisance when you're mid-workout.  In my experience, a tightly fitted chest strap sensor works better than an all-in-one for pool use.

#3  Compatibility
Garmin Heart Rate Monitor
If you work out in a gym then the cardio equipment you are using could be helpfully capable of receiving a heart rate signal.  Sometimes you can see  a "Polar" logo on the equipment's control panel or you can ask the gym management if their equipment is capable of receiving a heart rate signal and if yes, then from which manufacturer.  Watching your heart rate on the machine you are using can be very convenient.

Digifit Connect 2 Heart Rate Monitor Transceiver for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad | Requires an ANT+ compatible sensor and Digifit Full Functionality App (both sold separately)For Apple Junkies you can get an ANT+ transceiver for the iPhone or iPad and with an ANT+ chest strap monitor you can not only display the heart rate on your phone or iPad but also can input your heart rate data into the cool "DigiFit" software available on iTunes.

Next month I will be purchasing the Apple transceiver to go with my iPad and iCardio app from DigitFit.  According to the developer, iCardio can:
"turn your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad into a heart rate monitor and fitness computer. Using Digifit Connect and a heart belt, iCardio tracks BPM, calories, zones and much more."
Exciting! Hopefully with DigiFit I will be able to closely track my incredible improvement in cardio performance over time.