An Electrocardiogram (an ECG or EKG for short) is an extremely common and painless test used to read and monitor a patient's heart. EVERY doctor's office, clinic, hospital room and ambulance should have one of these readily available. ECGs are so common, you too can easily have one readily available on your Apple Watch or cell phone. They are used for pretty much everything in regards to detecting problems in your heart. But does that mean they are accurate when a person is going through one of the most stressful events a heart can experience? We are talking about heart attacks and the effectiveness an ECG has in detecting one.
Heart Attack EKG Strip
Before we dig into if an ECG is effective in finding a heart attack, we should talk about what a doctor is typically looking for within the strip machine. When a doctor attaches their ECG to your chest, this is what they are looking for:
• Abnormal Heart Rhythms
• Blocked or Narrowed Arteries in your Heart
• Previous Heart Attacks
• How effective your current heart treatment is working
A doctor will place an ECG on you if you are experiencing the following symptoms:
• Chest Pain
• Heart Palpitations
• Shortness of Breath
• Decline in ability to exercise
When accessing if someone is going through a heart attack, you want to check for the following symptoms:
• Pressure or Tightness in your Chest or Arms
• Abdominal Pain
• Shortness of Breath
• Cold Sweat
• Sudden Dizziness
Everyone will not experience the same symptoms while they are experiencing their heart attack. Some symptoms can be more severe or mild than others. Some people might not even experience a symptom! Your first sign could come from a sudden cardiac arrest that puts you into the hospital. But for those that are displaying signs and symptoms – the more of these you have, the more likely you are currently experiencing a heart attack.
In cases where the patient has a family history of relatives experiencing a heart attack before they hit 55, a doctor will instantly place an ECG on your chest just to make sure that you are not experiencing a heart attack in the moment.
Heart Attack ECG Changes
If your symptoms are constantly moving in and out, it will be hard for the ECG to record your results while you are experiencing a heart attack in the moment. An ECG is designed to read consistent rhythms; so symptom jumping will be hard to track. In this case, your doctor will most likely recommend that you stay on the ECG for a long period of time so they can track your vitals as quickly as possible.
If you are experiencing no issues with your heart, your EKG Strip will look just like everyone else's. When comparing a Heart Attack ECG vs normal ECG, there will be several spikes to determine when the electrical pulse made an irregular beat. These are the signs that a doctor is looking for when determining if you are having or have previously experienced a heart attack.
While an ECG is an amazing tool that has helped the medical field immensely, it is still hard to track some issues that are happening in the moment. In the US alone, someone experiences a heart attack every 40 seconds according to the CDC*. That is 805,000 people a year in one country! So if you believe that you are experiencing a heart attack, you should call for help as soon as possible. In the long run, it is better to be safe than sorry as a heart attack can cause lasting damage to your body. But if you are not experiencing signs of a heart attack in the moment, an ECG is a great way to determine if you have previously experienced a heart attack or not. This information will help you and your primary care physician in the long run.