The medical professionals at Chapel Hill Primary Care are dedicated to helping you maintain a healthy lifestyle. In addition to providing information about nutrition and exercise, we also order appropriate diagnostic tests any time you have the symptoms of an illness or medical condition. When you get the testing you need, it is easier to catch problems early and work together to find treatments that ease your symptoms. One of the tests you might need is the electrocardiogram, which is called an EKG or ECG.
What is EKG?
The electrocardiogram is a test that helps your doctor find out if you have any electrical problems in your heart. The electrical system within your heart is responsible for telling the heart when to beat and when to relax. This is why it is so important to let your doctor know if you have chest pain, heart palpitations, chest pressure, or other symptoms of heart rhythm disorders. The EKG test is a non-invasive way to determine if your heart’s electrical system is functioning normally. Your doctor might also order an EKG if you have certain risk factors for heart problems or if you take medications that can affect the heart.
Before your electrocardiogram, a technician will attach electrodes to your chest, legs, and arms. These electrodes connect to the wires from the EKG machine so the machine can record your heart’s electrical activity. When the technician is ready to start the test, you will have to lie still and avoid talking. The technician may also ask you to hold your breath at some point during the test. The EKG machine produces a strip of paper with a visual representation of your heart’s electrical activity. Your healthcare provider will interpret the results of the test and let you know if any additional tests are needed. There is no risk of injury during this test because the EKG machine does not send any electrical current through your body.
Your doctor will let you know if you had a normal EKG or an abnormal EKG. If the results are normal, you might not need any additional testing. Your primary care provider will work with you to develop a lifestyle plan that limits your risk of developing problems with your heart. If the EKG shows abnormal electrical activity in your heart, your doctor will likely order other diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the abnormality.
Several heart problems can cause abnormal EKG results. These problems include heart muscle damage, abnormal heart rhythms, enlarged heart, heart attack, inflammation of the heart, swelling around the heart, congenital heart defects, and changes in the amount of potassium or sodium in your bloodstream. If you have a history of atrial fibrillation, heart failure, or another heart problem, your doctor might recommend regular EKG testing to monitor the problem and make sure it is not getting worse.
EKG testing is just one of the methods your primary care physician can use to make sure your heart is working properly. If you do have a heart problem, the medical professionals at Chapel Hill Primary Care will help you develop a lifestyle plan that helps control your symptoms and reduce your risk of developing complications. We can also give you a referral to a heart specialist and coordinate your care with other healthcare providers.