Heart Health: Exploring Your Heart and the Electrocardiogram

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in this country. That means that heart problems affect a large portion of the population. It’s why primary care plays such a vital role in everyone’s short term and long term wellness. Visits to your primary care doctor and constant monitoring of your heart health means that any problems or abnormalities are caught and dealt with early on. One common way to monitor a patient’s heart is through an electrocardiogram.

What is it? 

An electrocardiogram—also known as an ECG or EKG—is a simple test. It measures your heart’s electrical activity. In your heart, an electrical stimulus is generated by the sinus node, which is a small mass of specialized tissue located in the right upper chamber. It generates an electrical stimulus regularly and this electrical signal travels down through the conduction pathways and causes the heart’s ventricles to contract, which in turn causes them to pump out blood. The two upper chambers of the heart are stimulated first and contract for a short period of time. 

When is the test conducted? 

Your primary care physician might recommend an electrocardiogram under certain circumstances. For example, if you are above the age of fifty and have a history of heart problems in your family. Also, if you are experiencing signs or symptoms that might indicate a heart problem, the test will be recommended. The test will help your doctor determine the cause of your symptoms and/or what kind of treatment might be necessary. These symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing or constant shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • A clear pounding, racing, or fluttering of the heart
  • Uneven heartbeats
  • Unusual sounds when your doctor listens to your heart 

What does it actually measure?

The test provides information about your heart rate and rhythm and shows if there is an enlargement of the heart due to conditions like hypertension (high blood pressure) or if there is evidence of any previous heart attack (myocardial infarction). 

Different Kinds of Electrocardiogram 

There are a few different kinds of tests that can be done, each that measure specific and different issues. For example, there is a difference between the resting ECG to the stress ECG.

Stress Test

This type of test measures heart problems that may only arise during exercise, i.e when your body is under some stress. The test will be conducted under certain conditions, mainly having you exercise on a treadmill or stationary bicycle to get the heart rate up. 

Holter Monitor 

This test is a little more involved. This is known as an ambulatory ECG and it records the activity of the heart over a 24 hour period. Your physician will attach electrodes to your chest. They will record information on a portable, battery-operated monitor that is easily carried. It’s small and portable enough to fit in your pocket, or belt, or shoulder strap. 

Who gets this test?

The test is recommended primarily to people who exhibit the symptoms listed above and for people that have risk factors or a history of heart disease. Also, if a patient has chances of an enlarged heart, the test will also be recommended. 

How Can I Protect My Heart?

Given the prevalence of heart disease in America, it is important to monitor your heart health if you have risk factors or family history. Nevertheless, prevention is always best, and it’s why here at Healthonomic Primary Care, we like to take care of our patients by helping them prevent complicated health issues down the road. So how can you take care of your heart?

  • Do some research on your risk factors. Ask within your family and find out if anybody had a history of heart disease or died of heart complications. This will at least provide you with the information you need to know whether you might be at a slightly higher risk than most. 
  • Quit smoking. The consumption of tobacco through cigarettes is a very unhealthy habit and can have serious and long-term effects on your heart. 
  • Exercise and maintain regular physical activity. This is a good recommendation across the board. Maintaining an active lifestyle and making sure you’re getting in some regular exercise will strengthen the heart and help prevent heart disease. 
  • Monitor and control your own blood pressure. Learning a little bit about how to keep an eye on it, will give you the peace of mind that everything is going well. 

Stay Heart Healthy With Regular Medical Exams 

Our goal here at Healthonomic is always to guide and assist our patients in a better and healthier life. This doesn’t always happen overnight. It depends on your age and situation but maintaining regular doctor visits with a doctor that knows your history and understands your issues, will give you a better fighting chance and the best health possible. That coupled with a healthy diet and exercise is a winning strategy for a rich and healthy life.