Who Should Have an EKG, and How Often?

May 19, 2023
Who Should Have an EKG, and How Often?
While your heartbeat continues whether you think about it or not, simple monitoring reveals much about your heart health. However, outside of specific health problems, it’s hard to know when you should — and when you shouldn’t — have an EKG.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 700,000 Americans die annually from heart disease, about 20% of all deaths. 

Your heart’s performance is obviously crucial for living a healthy life, but apart from taking their pulse once in a while, many people have no idea what’s going on inside their chest. 

An electrocardiogram (abbreviated EKG or ECG) measures the electrical signals that trigger your heartbeat. The test monitors heart health and quickly recognizes certain heart disorders using a painless process that can be administered virtually anywhere. 

The questions that remain for many are when they should have an EKG, how often they should have one, and whether devices like smartwatches provide useful information. There’s not a single answer. 

If you’re in good health with no heart symptoms, you might not need an EKG. However, that changes if you have risk factors for heart disease, even in the absence of symptoms. 

Visit Advanced Vascular Cardiac & Veins when you have concerns about your heart health. Dr. Enrique Hernandez and his team quickly assess your health from the heart’s perspective and offer diagnostic services like EKGs and stress tests

Do I need an EKG? 

If you’re a healthy adult with no symptoms of heart disease and few or no risk factors, there’s no reason to have regular EKGs, even though the test is simple and causes no harmful side effects. 

The American Academy of Family Physicians suggests that, for patients with no symptoms, false-positive tests from EKGs may even lead to misdiagnosis and overtreatment.  

Signs that I might need an EKG

There are signs and symptoms that make an EKG a good idea. These include: 

  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart palpitations
  • Elevated heart rate with no known cause
  • Unexplained shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Mental fog or confusion
  • Decline in your tolerance for exercise
  • Unexplained weakness or fatigue

Risk factors can also suggest an EKG is prudent even when you don’t have heart symptoms. These factors include: 

  • Family history of heart problems
  • Past personal history of heart disease
  • Health conditions including diabetes and hypertension

If you do require an EKG, there’s no need to prepare. It’s a safe procedure, and the only discomfort involved might be the removal of the electrodes, which is similar to removing an adhesive bandage. There could be as many as 12 electrodes placed on your chest, and you may need body hair shaved for proper placement. 

A standard EKG takes only a few minutes, but make sure you’re comfortable and warm before the test starts, since movement, talking, or shivering could negatively affect your test results. 

Dr. Hernandez advises you of your results and the next steps you should take, including the need for future retesting. Call or click to request an appointment with us for an EKG at Advanced Vascular Cardiac & Veins today.