According to statistics provided by the Heart Foundation, over 700,000 people in the United States have heart attacks every year. This equates to someone suffering a heart attack approximately every 43 seconds. Among these victims, more than half a million experience their first heart attack and over 200,000 have suffered a previous heart attack. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, killing one out of three. Cardiovascular diseases kill more people than all types of cancer combined.
The heart is a muscle and needs oxygen, supplied through normal oxygen-rich blood flow, to function and survive. If the “heart muscle” does not receive the required amount of oxygen, the heart (or the specific oxygen-deprived section) will “suffocate” and stop functioning; and, it will soon die. A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, occurs when oxygen-rich blood flow is severely restricted or ceased due to a blockage, clot, spasm, sudden or severe arrhythmia, or rarely a spontaneous coronary dissection. Fortunately, many heart attacks can be prevented; and, heart disease can often be treated effectively to help patients avoid multiple attacks.
An electrocardiogram (ECG), or ECG electrocardiographic test, monitors the heart’s electrical activity. An ECG can detect reduced blood flow, insufficient pumping force, irregular heartbeats, valve defects, abnormal size, congenital abnormalities, inflammation and other atypical cardiac activity. Often, but not always, a previous heart attack can be detected with an electrocardiogram, as well.
ECGs are sometimes performed as part of a complete physical exam. In some cases, a routine ECG will reveal a cardiovascular condition that showed no previous indications or symptoms. Many patients report having had no warning signs or noticeable symptoms prior to suffering their first heart attack. In, fact, a number of cardiovascular diseases can progress to severity without being diagnosed. High blood pressure, for example, is often called “the silent killer.” Early detection of heart problems or other cardiovascular conditions almost always proves to be beneficial.
An electrocardiogram will be recommended for patients that have one or more relevant risk factors or symptoms. Increasing age, ethnicity, personal or family history, tobacco use, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet and stress are some relevant risk factors for cardiovascular conditions, including heart attack. Symptoms of possible cardiac problems include unexplained fatigue, heart palpitations, labored breathing and recurrent intermittent chest pain.
An ECG is a fast, painless, non-invasive test that monitors your heart’s electrical activity. Electrodes are placed in specific locations to record your electrical cardiac activity while you are lying down. Usually, this test is performed in the exam room during an office visit. An electrocardiogram takes only a few minutes to complete. A normal heart rate will range between 60 and 100. A normal heart rhythm should appear consistent and even. After the test, Dr. Alonso with discuss the results with you.