Staying aware and vigilant with your health is extremely important, especially when it comes to heart health. Heart disease can begin to take effect before you detect any symptoms. In India, the onset tends to be earlier, with periodic heart health monitoring generally recommended over the age of 40. Keeping this in mind, it always helps to understand the various aspects that are part of caring for your heart. To understand specifically how heart health is monitored, we will examine the role of the electrocardiogram test.
If you have ever seen a heart being monitored at a hospital or on television and wondered what the sounds and the moving lines meant, that is an electrocardiogram, ECG for short. With each heartbeat, an electrical impulse travels through your heart causing the muscles to contract and pump blood. This electrical impulse is seen as line tracings on a moving strip of paper, or digitally as a moving line on a screen. An electrocardiogram records these electrical signals as spikes and dips called ECG waves.
An ECG helps you understand two key elements that are critical to assessing your heart health:
- The time intervals on the ECG indicate how long the electrical wave takes to pass through the heart
- The amount of electrical activity passing through the heart muscle indicates the work your heart is putting into each muscle contraction
Detecting changes in how your heart is performing is important. It can signal early signs of a developing condition. Heart health related problems are currently the leading cause of death globally and in India. ECG tests are one of the best ways to detect a heart condition before it worsens or becomes a serious health problem such as a heart attack or stroke. This simple test can be administered painlessly and is extremely useful to understand certain key characteristics of the heart:
- Heart rate: While the easiest way to detect your heart rate is by checking your pulse, an ECG can be helpful if your pulse is too irregular to count normally.
- Heart rhythm: An ECG can indicate wherever there are irregularities in heart rhythm, known as arrhythmias. Arrhythmias occur when there is a malfunction in any part of the heart’s electrical system.
- Heart attack: A heart attack, either past or present, generally shows up on an ECG. The patterns indicate the area and extent of damage during a heart attack.
- Heart structure: An ECG provides a picture of the structure of the heart, such as the size of chambers, thickness of walls and other characteristics.
When is an ECG used
If you have symptoms linked to your heart health such as chest pain, palpitations, breathlessness, rapid pulse, weakness or heart flutter, an ECG can be used along with other tests to better understand the underlying causes.
What is heart palpitations
If you have ever suddenly noticed or become aware of your heart beating, or felt like it was simply beating out of your chest, that is called heart palpitation. The feeling is characterized by irregular heart beats, a sudden pounding or fluttering. minutes. While most cases of heart palpitation may be harmless and triggered by stress, hormones or too much caffeine, they can also be a warning sign of a heart problem.
Main Types of ECG
The type of ECG you have will depend on your symptoms and the suspected heart problem.
- Resting ECG: Taken in a lying down, comfortable position
- Stress test ECG: Carried out while you are exercising, either on a treadmill or bicycle
- Ambulatory ECG: Conducted over 1-2 days by connecting the ECG electrodes to a portable device
It is never too soon or too late to start paying attention to your heart health, and that of your family. Regular ECG tests can be an easy, effective way to monitor your heart function and health.