An electrocardiogram or EKG for short is a method of measuring electrical activity within the heart. The test is non-invasive and helps physicians and cardiovascular consultants to measure the heart’s performance and if there are any irregularities within a patient’s heart.
An abnormal EKG can be an indication of many things, such as a signal that a patient’s health is at risk from something as severe as a myocardial infarction (heart attack) or a heart arrhythmia. However, an abnormal EKG can also be the normal variation of a heart’s rhythm, which does not affect a patient’s health.
How Does an EKG Work
An EKG machine is a portable device that has 12 flexible wires that are attached to sticky electrodes. The electrodes are placed on specific areas from the body, such as the arms, legs and around the heart. The electrodes are designed to measure the electrical impulses of the body.
The EKG machine doesn’t have the ability to generate electricity, it serves as a way to conduct and measure electrical activity within the body and specifically the heart. A normally functioning heart conducts electricity from the right atrium to the left atrium. The electrical current then proceeds to the atrioventricular (AV) node, signaling the heart’s ventricles to contract. The electrical signals are then directed to an area called the bundle of his, which is divided into fibers, providing current to the left and right ventricles.
An EKG is designed to measure any disruptions of electrical current within the heart, which can have a detrimental effect on the heart’s ability to perform efficiently.
What an Abnormal EKG Means
An EKG is used to measure several aspects of the heart and its functions. The results can be an indication of several health issues, such as:
- Abnormal heart shape or size: irregularities with the heart’s shape and size such as the heart’s walls being larger than others can be picked up by an abnormal EKG. In this instance, it can be an indication that the heart is working harder than usual to pump blood around the body.
- Heart attack or ischemia: When a patient endures a heart attack, the restricted blood flow within the heart can cause the tissue to lose oxygen and die. The dying tissue will not conduct electricity, causing an abnormal EKG.
- Abnormal heart rate: a healthy adult’s heart rate or BPM should be between 60 – 100 beats per minute. An abnormal EKG can help to distinguish whether the heart is beating too slowly or way too fast. If the BPM is outside the range for a healthy resting heart rate, it can be indicative that there’s a problem with the heart and blood flow of the patient.
- Heart rhythm abnormalities: A healthy heart usually beats in a particular rhythm or sequence. An EKG can help to distinguish if the heart is beating outside of its usual pattern, which may indicate a heart problem. If the heart is skipping beats, it will show up as an abnormal EKG.
- Side effects of medication: certain medications have been known to have an adverse effect on the body, impacting the heart’s rhythm and bpm. For example, medications such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers and sodium channel blockers can have a detrimental effect on the heart’s rhythm.
Seeking Medical Help
If you’re experiencing problems with your heart, tightness in the chest area or shortness of breath, it’s important to seek help from a qualified physician. Several symptoms may indicate that you require an EKG, so it’s important to look out for:
- Difficulty breathing and shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations or the feeling of your heart beating out of rhythm
- Racing heart combined with sweating profusely
- Tightness in the chest area
- The sudden feeling of fatigue with weakness
- Nausea and the feeling that you may pass out
It’s important to not waste any time if you experience any of the above symptoms. Contact your physician immediately to get yourself booked in for an EKG.