An Electrocardiogram or ECG is one of the most common tests used to detect heart problems in people of all ages. It is a quick, simple, and painless test that measures the rhythm and electrical activity of your heart, to determine whether or not it is working normally.
What is an ECG?
An ECG is a simple test that can be used to check your heart’s rhythm and electrical activity. Sensors attached to the chest, arms, and legs are used to detect the electrical signals produced by your heart each time it beats.
These signals are recorded by an ECG machine, which prints this data on paper, in the form of line tracings. The spikes and dips in the line tracings are called waves. By looking at the pattern of these waves on your ECG, your doctor can determine the rhythm and the rate of your heart beats, evaluate how your heart is working, and check for problems.
When is an ECG done?
There are a number of reasons why your doctor may recommend an ECG:
- To find the cause of symptoms that may indicate a problem with your heart, such as rapid and irregular heartbeats (palpitations), chest pain, shortness of breath, and dizziness or fainting.
- To check the health of the heart when you have other risk factors, such as a family history of early heart disease, cigarette smoking, obesity, or have diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
- As part of a routine checkup, for example, before you have an operation, to check how well your heart is working.
How is an ECG carried out?
An ECG usually takes about 10 minutes and is a safe and painless procedure.
Electrodes or sensors (usually 10) are attached to the skin of the chest, arms, and legs, with suction cups and some gel. The gel allows the electrical impulses of the heart to be more easily transmitted to the ECG leads. Electrical leads or wires from the electrodes are connected to the ECG machine.
The machine detects and amplifies the electrical signals that occur at each heartbeat and records them as waves on to a paper or computer.
During the test, you lie quietly on an examining table or bed. You need to remain as still as possible and breathe normally. Talking or moving may affect the test results. This is called a resting ECG as it records the heart’s activity while you are at rest, and not exerting yourself.
What is a Stress Test?
Some heart problems may only appear during exercise, when your heart needs to work harder. Hence, your ECG is recorded while you are exercising on a treadmill or a stationary bicycle. It is a good way to check how your heart behaves during exercise or under stress. This type of exercise ECG is often called a Stress Test or a Treadmill Test.
What can an ECG show?
An ECG may help detect:
- Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), where your heart beats too slowly, too fast, or irregularly.
- Whether you’re having a heart attack, or have had a heart attack in the past.
- Heart problems, such as an enlargement of the heart.
In some instances, an underlying heart problem may not show up on the ECG. It is, therefore, important to remember, that a normal ECG does not rule out the possibility of heart disease, and a patient with heart symptoms may require additional tests.
Disclaimer: All material on Hidoc.co is provided for informational purposes only and should not be taken as a substitute for professional medical or health advice. Always seek the advice of your physician for any questions regarding your symptoms or medical condition and before taking any home remedies or supplements.