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The heart uses a system of electrical impulses to keep pumping in a regular rhythm. An electrocardiogram (EKG) tests your heart's electrical activity. It may be used to diagnose causes of chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or rapid, irregular heartbeats, or to check the overall condition of the heart. There's no danger of any kind of electrical shock from an EKG, since it's not inputting any electrical impulses into your body. It's just recording your heart's own natural electrical impulses.

For an EKG, you'll lie on a bed or table while a technologist places small adhesive patches called electrodes at various places on your arms, legs, and chest. You'll be asked to lie very still and breathe normally as the electrodes gather information about the electrical impulses in your heart. The information is portrayed as a series of spikes and dips on a graph. The pattern of these spikes and dips shows how quickly and regularly your heart is beating.

In some cases, a stress EKG may also be conducted to check for abnormalities that can only be seen under exertion. The resting EKG described above is done first, followed by another EKG in which you'll walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike while the electrodes gather information about your heart's electrical activity under stress. The results of the two tests will then be compared to gain an understanding of how your heart functions at rest and under exertion.

 

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