Electrocardiogram tests are quick and painless and involve sensors placed around the heart on the skin’s surface by a healthcare worker to measure electrical impulses sent from the heart. ECGs and EKGs are both abbreviations referring to electrocardiograms, but is there a difference between the two?
An electrocardiogram is a test used by healthcare professionals to assess electrical impulses sent from the heart.
An ECG and EKG are the same tests. The difference is the abbreviations used in English and German.
An ECG Is used to detect heart rhythm abnormalities and can give healthcare professionals a better understanding of what is wrong with a patient’s heart. The procedure can take as little as 5–10 minutes to complete.
It’s essential to keep your heart healthy. The American Heart Association has 8 tips to prevent heart disease and keep your heart healthy.
What is an electrocardiogram?
An electrocardiogram, otherwise known as an ECG, records small electrical waves generated during heart activity. The main reason for an ECG is to assess abnormal rhythm in a patient’s heart rate.
ECG vs. EKG
ECG and EKG are the same test and are just referred to differently because of the English and German abbreviations.
- EKG is an abbreviation of the word electrocardiogram, spelled in German “elektrokardiogramm.”
- ECG is an abbreviation of the English version of the word electrocardiogram.
Typically, healthcare workers will refer to an electrocardiogram as an EKG to avoid confusion with an EEG, a test used by doctors to assess brain waves.
What does an ECG do?
An ECG is used to detect abnormalities in the heart by assessing different waves in the rhythm. After the test, healthcare workers assess the waves and can tell if there are issues or concerns with the heart rhythm, which gives them a better understanding of the underlying heart condition of the patient.
What is the purpose of an ECG?
The purpose of an electrocardiogram is to assess for abnormal heart issues such as:
- Heart arrhythmia (also known as an irregular heartbeat)
- Heart disease or damage from previous heart attacks
- Coronary artery disease (such as narrowed arteries close to the heart)
- To assess if pacemakers are working effectively
Healthcare workers may request that a patient have an ECG test if one of the following symptoms occur:
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Rapid pulse
- Shortness of breath
What does an electrogram procedure look like?
There is no specific preparation needed for an ECG test. Patients can expect the procedure to last no more than 5–10 minutes. Patients will generally get tests done in medical clinics or labs where a healthcare worker will place 12 small, round sensors on the skin’s surface, around the heart.
These sensors are attached to a computer system that will record the information and print out a form for the healthcare worker to read and interpret. Nurses, doctors, and many other healthcare providers are taught to read the different waves on the ECG printout and this will give them a better understanding of the patient's overall heart health.
What is a Holter monitor?
A Holter monitor is a small device used to assess a patient’s heart for 24 to 48 hours. This system is a portable version of an ECG monitor and does the same thing that an ECG in a medical setting would; however, it can be performed through the night and for more extended periods.
How to keep your heart healthy
According to the American Heart Association, there are 8 essential key measurements to keeping a healthy heart:
- Eat better. It’s essential to get an overall healthy intake of whole foods, fruits and vegetables, lean protein, nuts, and seeds, and cook with non-tropical oils such as olive oil and canola oil.
- Be more active. Adults are required to get at least 2.5 hours of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity every week. Children should get at least 1 hour of activity, including sports or play.
- Quit tobacco. Nicotine products, including vaping and smoking, are the leading cause of preventable death in the US, including deaths due to tobacco-related heart disease. Quitting tobacco is imperative to heart health.
- Get healthy sleep. Most adults require 7–9 hours of sleep each night. Getting the right amount of sleep promotes healing, improves brain function, and reduces the risk of heart disease.
- Manage weight. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is essential to heart health. Reaching a healthy BMI is important and can help to prevent heart disease.
- Control cholesterol. High levels of non-HDL cholesterol can cause heart disease. Getting blood work regularly to monitor your cholesterol levels is essential and can be done through a family medical doctor.
- Manage blood sugar. Over time, high levels of blood sugar can cause heart disease. Eating well is essential to avoid too much glucose in your blood. Speaking to a nutritionist can help you manage your blood sugar levels.
- Manage blood pressure. Having a healthy blood pressure, less than 120/80, is important to your heart health and can keep your heart more robust. Having high blood pressure can lead to heart damage.
Is an EKG very accurate?
Yes, ECGs are accurate. However, the results can be inaccurate if the healthcare worker does not place the sensors on the patient correctly or if the healthcare worker reading the print is not well educated on reading or interpreting the results.
Can an EKG detect heart failure?
Congestive heart failure, otherwise known as CHF, is a complex heart condition. While an ECG can be used to diagnose CHF, CHF is most often diagnosed using an echocardiogram. An echocardiogram uses sound waves to show how blood flows through the heart.
Is the Apple Watch ECG accurate?
According to Apple, the Apple Watch ECG is can detect abnormal heart rhythms; however, it cannot detect heart attacks, blood clots, stroke, or other heart conditions, such as congestive heart failure. It’s always best to check in with your medical provider if you experience symptoms.
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- Health Education Journal. Accurate interpretation of the 12-lead ECG electrode placement: A systematic review.
- European Journal of Medical Physics. Computer-aided diagnosis of congestive heart failure using ECG signals – A review.