Did you know heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and causes over 600,000 deaths each year? If you want to keep a healthy heart, it’s important to practice preventative measures. For example, did you know standing desks can reduce heart disease risk?
But if heart disease runs in the family, it’s important to go a step further. You should be familiar with EKG tests and echocardiograms. Both of these tests can diagnose heart disease.
But what is an EKG test? Or an electrocardiogram, for that matter? Read on to find out!
What is an EKG Test?
So, what is an EKG test? It’s a heart tracing that gives information about heart rhythm and rate. Sometimes it’s called an ECG or an electrocardiogram.
In an EKG, sticky pads containing electrodes are placed on the chest wall. These pads are then attached to leads that connect to the EKG machine, which traces the heart’s electrical activity. It often takes less than 5 minutes to set up the test, and generate the tracing itself in seconds.
It’s the most common heart test and screens anyone with a personal or family history of heart disease. It’s also used to check for a heart attack in any patients having chest pain. It also can diagnose fast or slow heart rate, irregular heartbeats, heart enlargement, and heart blockages.
There are also a variety of specialized EKG tests. An EKG scan while exercising can find problems that may only appear when your heart is working hard. Some tests use a portable EKG machine for 1-2 days to measure heart rhythm and rate over an extended period.
In many cases, if an EKG test indicates something might be wrong with the patient’s heart, the next step is often an echocardiogram.
What is an Echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram is an ultrasound that provides a moving picture of the heart. This information can check the heart’s structure and function. Echocardiograms are also called heart ultrasounds, a heart sonar, or simply an echo.
In an echocardiogram, patients lie down on their left side onto a specialized table for the exam. Ultrasound gel gets applied to the chest and the ultrasound probe takes pictures. It usually takes no longer than 20 minutes.
An echocardiogram can reveal how the heart pumps as well as the sizes of its chambers. They also provide information about valve function. While not as common as an EKG, it is generally more accurate.
There are also special varieties of echocardiograms. A dobutamine stress echo compares heart pictures from before or during exercise. A transoesophageal echo uses a probe placed down the throat to take very clear pictures of the heart.
If you’re interested in the inner workings of echocardiography, consider an online course. Read more at Gulfcoast Ultrasound Institute for more information.
Now You Know the Difference!
Now you no longer have to wonder what is an EKG test or what is an echocardiogram. Are you or a loved one at risk for a heart attack? You might want to consider purchasing a home defibrillator — read more here.