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EKG Explained: When You Need the Test and When You Don’t

Every 36 seconds, an American loses their life to heart disease. It is the leading cause of death in the United States. 

Considering these serious statistics, Americans have to take extra precautions to keep their heart healthy. This not only includes a proper diet and regular exercise, but routine check-ups. Only a medical professional can catch a disease before it progresses too far. Often, an EKG test is part of the process. 

To differentiate between when you need an EKG test and when you don’t, check out the information below.

What Is an EKG Test?

EKG, or ECG, refers to electrocardiography and electrocardiograms. An electrocardiogram uses electrodes placed on the chest to detect electrical activity in the heart. Interestingly, the heart produces electricity through its cyclic activity with each heartbeat. 

This test serves as an important part of the diagnostic process to determine heart health.


It is confusing that this test has two different acronyms, but they both refer to the same thing. The only difference is language. 

In German, the word for this machine is Elektro-kardiographie. You can see where the letters EKG come from. It is uncommon for German to take precedence in American medical terminology, but it seems Germany has long been at the forefront of this technology

ECG comes from the English name of the machine — electrocardiography. You may hear either term used by medical professionals. 

When to Get One

Anyone with a personal or family history of heart problems should regularly get an EKG test. This test is also advisable for anyone experiencing symptoms of heart problems. 

It is common for patients to get an EKG test as part of a routine health check, regardless of family history or symptoms. This is not harmful, but also not necessary. 

How to Get One

An EKG test is a relatively simple diagnostic procedure that is commonly performed onsite. There is minimal preparation needed to get one, but make sure to check that any medications you are taking will not interfere with the test. 

During the test, around 10 electrodes will be placed directly onto the chest. Try to stay still and the test should be over in a few minutes. 

Interpreting the Results

An EKG test measures the cycle of polarization and depolarization that occurs in the heart during each heartbeat. These measurements can reveal detailed information about potential damage to the heart and if it is functioning properly. 

Only a medical professional can properly read and share the results, which should occur after the EKG test is performed.

More Health Guides

An EKG test is a common way to check heart health. It is not necessary for those without a history of heart problems or those who do not have symptoms of heart problems. However, routine EKGs will not harm patients. It just may lead to unnecessary follow-up tests that can cause worry or financial expenses. 

To make an appointment for your next EKG test, don’t hesitate to contact us.