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Q: My annual physical always includes an electrocardiogram. What information does an EKG provide?
A: An electrocardiogram—sometimes called an EKG—is a test that records the electrical activity of the heartbeat.
EKGs are used to evaluate whether your heart is working normally and often are included as part of routine physical exams for people over the age of 40. It is one of the first tests used when someone complains of chest pain and can indicate whether the chest pain is due to a heart attack. The EKG is the gold standard for the diagnosis of cardiac arrhythmias (rhythm abnormalities).
Jennifer H. Mieres, M.D., is director of nuclear cardiology and associate professor of clinical medicine at New York University. She’s also a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association.