Are you afraid you might suffer from heart problems? An electrocardiogram, also called an EKG or ECG, may be what you need to put your mind at rest, or to get on the right path to prevent future problems.
An EKG is a simple test that detects and records the electrical activity of the heart. It can be used to evaluate signs and symptoms that could indicate heart problems. In addition, it shows how fast the heart is beating and records the strength and timing of the electrical signs as they pass through each part of the heart.
What does an EKG reveal?
Heart problems can change the electrical signature of the heart. An EKG records the electrical activity, which can reveal several heart problems, including:
- Heart attacks
- Lack of blood flow to the heart muscle
- An irregular heart beat
- A heart that is not pumping correctly
- Birth defects
When do you need an EKG?
Doctors sometimes order EKGs to screen for early heart disease that has no symptoms, especially if the person has a family history of heart disease. Some symptoms that can be evaluated include:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Heart pounding, racing or fluttering
What happens during an EKG?
An EKG is painless. When a 12-lead EKG is done, several wires or “leads” are attached to the arms, legs and chest with soft patches called electrodes. The electrodes allow doctors to take 12 different recordings of the heart’s electrical signals at the same time. A machine records the signal on graph paper or displays them on a screen. No electricity passes through your body, so there is no danger of getting shocked. The test takes about 10 minutes.
A single-lead EKG rhythm strip only involves two electrodes attached to the wrist. It is a two-dimensional picture of the heart. Doctors may order a 12-lead EKG if the single-lead shows any problems.
Free EKG screenings
Western Baptist volunteers will provide free single-lead EKG rhythm strips as part of WPSD Local 6's Healthy Living Fair from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15, at Kentucky Oaks Mall. Also, hospital volunteers will provide cholesterol and blood sugar screenings, in conjunction with the Purchase District Health Department. Look for Western Baptist booths at Center Court and at the Elder-Beerman Concourse. Western Baptist chef Seth Bowery will present a health cooking demonstration from 2:30 to 4 p.m. at Center Court.
Chest Pain and Stroke Hotline
For help identifying signs and symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, phone our award-winning Chest Pain and Stroke Hotline at 1-800-575-1911 to speak with a registered nurse at Western Baptist.
Send your questions!
Do you have a cardiac question tugging at your heart? Send it to email@example.com or mail it to HeartBeat, 2501 Kentucky Ave., Paducah, KY 42003. If we use it in a future HeartBeat column, you will receive a Western Baptist Hospital door prize.