Heart disease affects many Americans and is currently the leading cause of death in this country. In many cases, a heart attack is the first symptom of this condition. Preventive cardiology can help lower your risk of developing heart disease or prevent the condition from getting worse. One of the important aspects of preventive cardiology is know what’s going on with the heart. To that end, a vein doctor like Ken Stevens, MD, of Premier Heart and Vein Care, uses several electrocardiography techniques.
How The Heart Works
The heart runs on electricity. An electrical impulse begins in a spot inside the heart called the SA node. The impulse travels through the heart and the muscle responds by squeezing to pump blood through the heart and out into the body. The blood goes first to the lungs, where it takes on oxygen, then returns to the heart and is sent out through the arteries. After delivering oxygen to the body cells, the blood returns to the heart for another round. The electrical impulse can by measured to determine if it is fast, slow or irregular.
An electrocardiogram (usually called an EKG) is one of the most common ways to measure electrical activity in the heart. Completely non-invasive, this test translates the information it receives into a pattern that can be viewed on a screen or printed on special paper. The doctor then measures important aspects of the tracing for size and frequency and looks at the overall pattern to determine what’s going on in the heart. The procedure is performed in a doctor’s office, is not painful and has no side effects.
An EKG can give you a one-time picture of the heart’s activity. A Holter monitor is an EKG that is meant to be worn as you go about your activities during the day and while sleeping. Sometimes your heart rate and rhythm change significantly with activity or during the night; the Holter monitor will record all of those changes. In most cases, patients are asked to wear the Holter monitor for 24 to 48 hours, but occasionally it may be longer. In all other respects, a Holter monitor is just like a regular EKG.
In addition to an EKG or Holter monitor, your doctor might want to check how much blood is flowing through the chest and how hard the heart has to work to pump the blood. In that case, a procedure known as impedance cardiography will be used. An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart. This test can create images from sound waves that show the internal structure of the heart in real time. It is used to look for physical heart abnormalities.
In order to make recommendations for care, doctors need information about the heart. Electrocardiography provides that information. If you have questions about electrocardiography or the tests listed above or want to schedule an appointment, please contact us at Premier Heart and Vein Care.