Last updated: August 14, 2021

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Taking care of our health is the best thing we can do to enjoy our loved ones and to be able to do the activities we love so much. Today we would like to talk about a vital study to know and monitor the state of our heart. Yes, the ECG (electrocardiogram).

We will give you information that will help you better understand what the ECG is, how the test is performed, what the different types of ECGs are, what equipment you can find within your reach and how they are configured to be able to monitor your heart in different situations and activities in your life.

If a doctor or trainer recommended you to monitor your heart activity, you want to be better informed or your physical condition has led you to have to keep a stricter and continuous record of your heart, in ReviewBox we want to provide you with information that leads you to clarify your doubts and you can buy what you need.




The most important facts

  • An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a very simple and painless medical test used to check the condition of your heart. It checks your heart's vital signs such as heart rhythm and electrical activity to determine its health.
  • There are mainly three different types of ECGs. There is one that is performed while you are lying down in a quiet position. Another is performed while you walk or run on a treadmill or exercise on a stationary bike. And there are others that are ambulatory, to monitor your heart for a whole day or more.
  • ECG machines have different types of sensors that measure the electrical activity of the heart and come in different forms. Depending on what you need, you will find wristbands, chest straps or monitors with different levels of monitoring.

The best electrocardiogram: Our picks

Buying guide: What you need to know about an ECG

It is always important that before you choose the product you want to buy, you take into consideration a few things that will give you a broader picture of what an ECG is and what it does. For this reason, here is some information that we believe will help you.

ECG performed in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. (Photo: Bokskapet / pixabay.com)

What is an ECG - electrocardiogram?

The ECG is a diagnostic test that records the electrical activity of the heart. The electrical impulse or wave is what causes the heart to contract and pump blood to the body. The way this activity is measured is through electrodes or sensors that can be placed on the chest, arm or legs.

The record is printed on paper or displayed on the screen of the machine and is used to check the state of health of the heart, its heart rate, blood flow, etc. This can diagnose problems such as ischaemic heart disease, arrhythmias, stiffening of the heart muscle, arrhythmias, murmurs, a heart attack, etc.

What are the advantages of an electrocardiogram?

The electrocardiogram is a simple, harmless, inexpensive and painless test that provides doctors with important information about our heart and how it is functioning. However, the detection of heart disease and heart problems is not limited to this test.

Advantages
  • Accessible to all
  • Early detection of heart problems
  • Standard and simplified interpretation
  • Monitoring of sick patients
  • Reveals more than a physical examination
Disadvantages
  • It is only an observational test
  • Does not differentiate abnormalities that mimic heart disease
  • Misinterpretation
  • Intermittent cardiac abnormalities
  • False positive results

ECG on wristband, belt or monitors What should you look out for?

Whatever device you choose to monitor your heart will be very useful and beneficial. However, depending on the reason you need to purchase one, there will be variables that suit you best and/or suit your needs. Here we have shown you, basically, three ECG presentations: a wristband, a belt and two monitors.

Here are some of the factors to consider for each of them according to the use you want to make of them, as there are different types depending on what you need to measure. There are those that monitor your heart in a relaxed state, stress or exercise and ambulatory ones.

Bracelet: with a bracelet you can monitor your heart in movement, it is not only ideal for athletes but also for those who require a 24/7 record for a specific health condition. It also has sensors to measure blood flow (PPG), especially useful for not overdoing it during exercise.

Belt: all ambulatory equipment works with sensors and for them to work well they have to be attached to the body to detect the electrical activity of the heart. This is one of the advantages of the chest belt as it has greater and more constant contact with the skin. Therefore, they will provide better accuracy.

Monitors: these are a little more specialised even if they are portable as they will give you a much more specific on-screen report. Some already include the electrodes and allow the information to be shared with a cardiologist or family doctor. They are recommended for use by people working in health care.

Type Use Measurement
Wristband Stress or exercise status Athletes or exercisers ECG and PPG.
Belt Relaxed and stress or exercise state Athletes, exercisers or people with a medical condition ECG
Monitors All types Doctors, nurses, patients in general ECG

How much does an electrocardiogram or ECG cost?

The cost of any ECG device will be directly related to its use, specificity and accuracy. However, it is important to consider that they are all devices that if put to good use can last a long time. This is not to mention the high benefits of constant monitoring of the heart.

Purchasing criteria

Heart diseases are nowadays considered to be one of the leading causes of death or to leave major sequelae and disability in many people. That is why deciding to buy some ECG equipment is no longer considered a luxury. However, consider the following so that you can compare the different models.

Degree of accuracy

The devices on the market are built with optical sensors that measure and record the electrical activity of your heart. The capacity of these sensors is measured in LEDs. Depending on the number of LEDs will depend on the degree of accuracy of a device. In this case a device with only one LED will be less accurate than one with three LEDs.

1 LED. Accuracy is good if it is limited to resting states where the sensor's contact with the skin is not affected by movement or sweat.

2 LED. Accuracy is good even when exercising and regular monitoring is performed to maintain good condition.

3 LED. Accuracy is high for high performance athletes or patients with heart problems.

ECG type

Any type of equipment can be used as a preventive measure as it will tell us if the electrical activity in our heart is normal, if there are irregularities, if it is too fast or too slow. This information will be crucial to be able to consult a cardiologist so that other tests can be carried out if necessary.

However, there are basically three types of ECGs - for relaxed or resting state, for stress or exercise and ambulatory for 24/7 monitoring. That is why it is very important to consider the reason behind your decision to purchase equipment.

Resting: a simple 1-LED wristband or watch is useful in these cases and simple monitors are also recommended for this type of ECG.

Stress or exercise: a wristband or belt is ideal for outdoor activities or activities that require constant movement. There are specialised monitors that are used by cardiologists when they require patients to be on a treadmill or stationary bike.

Ambulatory: these are specific monitors that are used for problems that only occur during certain activities. This provides continuous 24-hour monitoring while the patient walks, shops, goes to work, eats, etc.

Limitations

An ECG machine according to its accuracy can detect a wide variety of cardiac conditions such as arrhythmias, coronary heart disease, heart attacks, cardiomyopathies, heart failure, among others. However, it is only the first test a doctor would recommend if he or she believes there is a problem with the heart.

For this reason, it is important to have routine medical check-ups even if your ECG machine does not report any abnormalities as there may be things that it does not detect. Your doctor may supplement with blood tests or other tests such as X-rays, echocardiography, CT scans, MRI, etc.

The assessment of a specialist is always the most important thing. (Photo: Arvin Chingcuangco / Unsplash.com)

Placement

Regardless of the degree of accuracy and type of ECG or whether it is a bracelet, a belt or a monitor, the correct positioning of the equipment is essential to ensure the proper functioning and monitoring of the heart.

For this reason, we suggest you consider the following tips to get the most out of your ECG equipment:

  • Always check that the battery is charged or the cable is securely connected.
  • Clean the sensors before and after use only with a damp cloth.
  • Check that the sensors are in contact with your skin on your chest, arm, wrist or leg.
  • Some sensors or electrodes require your skin to be slightly moistened to place them on your skin.
  • If it is a resting measurement, do not move, do not talk and relax so as not to alter the result.
  • If it is a moving measurement, do not shake the equipment and avoid hitting it with anything that may alter the recording.

If you are not sure if your ECG equipment is working properly, take it to a service technician to check it.

(Featured image source: Brian Jackson/ 123rf.com)

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