Often the best way for a primary care physician or a specialist like a cardiologist to understand how well a patient’s heart is functioning is to see it in action over time. Cardiac monitoring displays heart activity in a way that helps the doctor diagnose abnormal conditions.
Hospital-based monitors have a big disadvantage, though, because you are not going about your normal day when hooked up to one. For that, you need something you can take home. What is a take-home heart monitor and what benefits does it offer?
What is a Take-Home Heart Monitor?
There are different types of heart monitors you can wear at home. You probably have one in your watch or see them on fitness equipment like a treadmill. Those are optical monitors that work by scattering LED light off blood vessels to measure your heartbeat. They give you a chance to see how your heart responds to physical activity, so you can structure your fitness plan effectively.
The most common heart monitor prescribed by the cardiologist provides a little more information than just how fast your heart is beating, though. They measure the electrical activity of the cardiovascular system.
A take-home heart monitor prescribed by a physician is more likely to be an ambulatory electrocardiography machine. The goal is to measure the electrical activity of the cardiovascular system.
Electrocardiography, or recording of the electrical activity of the heart, helps doctors spot irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias. The mobile heart monitor collects data while you live your normal life. It’s the best way for a cardiologist to see the heart’s electrical activity as you go about your day.
One of the more common portable electrocardiography devices is the Holter monitor, something that has been around for decades. The old-school machines used reel-to-reel tapes to record cardiac data. Today, Holter monitors are more sophisticated with high-tech features like flash memory.
One benefit of modern Holter monitors is the ability of the patient to mark specific events on the machine. For example, a patient might press the button to mark the time he or she takes medication or feels dizzy.
As technology continues to improve, heart monitors have become more compact, too. Some utilize a smartphone to record and transmit data to the cardiologist. The Holter monitor requires wireless leads attached to the chest to gather data. Newer designs only require you to hold them in your hand to get a reading.
Key Benefits of a Take-Home Cardiac Monitor
Ultimately it boils down to giving your healthcare team the data it needs to accurately diagnose a heart condition or dismiss one. Using a portable monitor provides detailed data that have diagnostic value and helps doctors understand the condition of your heart.
A take-home monitor means less interruption in your life. You can go to work or school wearing the device. You can play a sport or go out with friends. It’s about keeping your mobile while giving cardiologists information about your heart.
The take-home monitor lets the cardiologist see how your heart reacts to everyday stressors, too, like exercise or work. It also pinpoints things that might interrupt heart function such as sleep apnea or physical activity. The monitor points out potential dangers for you, as well, like what happens with your heart when you are driving a car or going up the stairs. Some of the advanced portable monitors allow you to take a reading before and after key events like exercise or going to sleep.
More than anything else, though, a take-home monitor gives you and your cardiologist a sense of freedom. You are not tied to a bed connected to a hospital monitor and your cardiologist can see how your heart reacts to anything and at any time.