It’s impossible to discuss heart health without bringing up some fairly frightening numbers. To wit, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and, every 34 seconds someone dies of cardiovascular disease.
Now, let’s consider a more positive, but equally dramatic, statistic — 90% of heart disease is preventable.
Since February is American Heart Month in the US, Dr. Bazel and our team at Michael Bazel, M.D., want to focus on ways we can help you stay one step ahead of heart disease, which includes the electrocardiogram, or EKG.
Your heart operates on electricity, which is generated within the organ. In brief, an EKG measures the electrical impulses that travel through your heart, creating each heartbeat.
Most of us are familiar with EKG readouts — the streaming valleys and peaks that indicate your heart is pumping. What those dips and rises are indicating are waves of electricity that travel through your heart.
The first wave is the P wave, which starts in the upper chambers, or atria, of your heart. As the wave travels to the lower chambers of your heart, there’s a temporary flatline and then another peak as the QRS complex wave travels through your left and right ventricles. The final wave is the T wave, which occurs while your ventricles are at rest before the next wave passes through.
All of this happens about 60-100 times per minute, which is considered an average heart rate.
What an EKG can tell us
An EKG is a frontline diagnostic tool that helps us spot a number of different potential issues, including:
- An arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
- Heart failure
- Heart attack
- Previous heart damage
- Coronary artery disease
We also use an EKG to follow up on cardiovascular treatments, such as if you’ve had a pacemaker put in.
Undergoing an EKG
Not only does an EKG provide us with extremely valuable information about your cardiovascular health, but the test is also absolutely painless. All we do is attach a few electrodes to your chest, arms, and legs, and you lie back and let the EKG do its thing.
That said, there are times when we may want to measure your heart under more trying circumstances, so we conduct a stress test. For this, we have you do a few exercises to get your heart rate up.
In either case, the EKG test doesn’t take long, and you’re free to get on with your day afterward.
When it comes to prepping, we ask that you avoid applying body lotion beforehand as it can interfere with how the electrodes adhere to your body. Also, don’t drink any caffeine right before your EKG test.
If you have questions about an EKG, call one of our conveniently located offices in the greater Los Angeles area in Panorama City, Bell, and Valley Village, California, to schedule an appointment. Or you can also request an appointment online.