An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a noninvasive, painless test that assesses heart rhythm and function by recording the electrical activity of the heart. Each heartbeat is activated by an electrical impulse that originates from the right atrium and travels throughout the heart, giving rise to the heartbeat.

All this information can be collected through electrodes that are connected to the skin in the front of the chest, arms and legs. These electrical impulses are recorded in the form of lines and curves on a graph paper with which they can be interpreted as contractions or relaxations of the atria and ventricles.

With this device we can see how all the activity of the heart is and if there are alterations in the rhythm, the regularity of the heartbeat, the size and position of the atria and ventricles, to determine if there is any alteration that affects the proper functioning of the heart .

Uses of the electrocardiogram

There can be a variety of cardiac or non-cardiac problems, which are capable of altering the electrical currents of the heart. Depending on the type of study to be carried out, it will be possible to find the correct diagnosis in an electrocardiogram for any heart condition. Here are the main uses:

  • To detect any complications due to chest pain or other symptoms that suggest chest problems or myocardial infarction.
  • To measure the electrical activity of the heart.
  • It is used to find the causes of symptoms or heart disease such as shortness of breath, fainting, dizziness or irregular arrhythmias.
  • To measure the size and position of the chambers of the heart.
  • Helps detect other heart valve problems, pericarditis, myocarditis, among others.
  • To see the effect of some drugs or in people who have pacemakers, since it allows evaluating their functioning and if their treatment is proving effective.
  • To find out what physical condition the person is in.
  • It helps to know if there is a family history of heart disease.
  • To identify deficiencies in metabolism that affect the heart muscle, product of alterations of certain minerals in the body such as sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium.
  • It serves as an exam before having any surgery.
  • If it is a stress electrocardiogram, it is used to evaluate the patient’s blood pressure during exercise.
  • To determine how much exercise is adequate for patients who are going to start a rehabilitation, or who are in recovery from a heart problem and to evaluate the tolerance to exertion in patients with problems or that they suppose they may have.

Types of Electrocardiograms

Resting electrocardiogram:

It is a test that can be used to discover different types of heart disease and to find out how the patient reacts to the applied treatment, it is performed in hospitalized patients since it is a quick and simple procedure, which lasts only a few minutes so it is not time enough to detect symptoms that rarely occur to you.

This allows the doctor to identify the cardiac problems that may show when the heart is in review, being able to measure the rhythm, the heartbeat, as well as the size, position of the ventricles and atria, this being the first test that is done. to determine any irregularity that occurs in the normal functioning of the heart.

Stress EKG:

This is an examination that is performed in the office on a treadmill or stationary bike and consists of making a record during a controlled effort to make the exercises of the person being evaluated a little difficult and to see if these physical exercises have any type of effect to the heart, since when seeing physical effort, the work of the heart will increase, bringing the need for a greater blood supply.

The patient must indicate to the medical personnel present any incident that occurs such as tiredness, fatigue, some chest pain, palpitations, etc. With this test you can help define the amounts of exercise and stress that your heart is able to withstand and you can correctly diagnose any abnormalities that may arise.

The test is considered favorable when the patient achieves 85% of the maximum heart rate for his age and his physical state, being determined by the following formula FCMP = (220-age) * 0.85, or until he cannot continue for some of the aforementioned incidents

Ambulatory EKG:

It is the one that records the electrical activity of the heart while the patient performs all their usual daily activities that may include exercising, eating, sleeping, having sex, evacuating the bowel and any other activity, with this test it is more likely to detect heartbeats abnormalities that only occur when performing some of these activities and because arrhythmias usually appear and disappear and it is very unlikely that they can be recorded while the patient is in a consultation with their doctor.

There are several types of ambulatory monitoring and the doctor will have to choose which is the one that can work best for him to have the maximum help to be able to give a good diagnosis to his heart problems.

How to prepare for an EKG

You should keep information with your doctor about the medications you are taking, as some of these may influence the results.

You should not do exercises or drink cold liquids before performing the electrocardiogram as it can give false results, you should be as calm as any movement can change the record.

If an exercise or outpatient electrocardiogram is to be performed, it is necessary to go to the specialized medical center to perform the test, it is necessary to go with the appropriate clothing and footwear, with the recommendation not to eat heavy meals before the test and following the indications that give it to the letter.

Inform the staff if you consume any medication, which will indicate whether or not it is necessary to suspend it before to be able to perform the test.


When applying some of the tests mentioned above there is no risk of presenting any type of complication, as no current passes through the body there is no possibility of receiving an electric shock.

If you have to shave the skin, you may notice some minor discomfort, the gums of the patches used generate some irritation to the skin or cause discomfort when they are removed.

Due to the effort that the patient undergoes in some cases, chest pain, fatigue, high blood pressure, arrhythmias, dizziness, nausea may occur, these symptoms should be reported immediately to the doctor.

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Dr. Samantha Robson ( CRN: 0510146-5) is a nutritionist and website content reviewer related to her area of ​​expertise. With a postgraduate degree in Nutrition from The University of Arizona, she is a specialist in Sports Nutrition from Oxford University and is also a member of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

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