Can You Have A Heart Attack With A Normal EKG? We Break It Down.

December 30, 2021
5 min read

Half of all Americans possess one of the three risk factors for heart disease: high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, or smoking. While you may not know it, heart disease can silently progress until irreversible damage to the heart occurs due to a heart attack. But if you've recently had a normal EKG, you may be wondering: can you have a heart attack with a normal EKG?In this article, we'll discuss whether the EKG is a reliable indicator for risk of heart attack and what the test measures.

What Is An EKG?

An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) measures your heart rate and rhythm. However, it shows more than just the beats per minute that your fitness watch or smartphone can show you.The ECG operator attaches up to 12 electrodes to your chest and limbs while you lie down. These electrodes measure tiny voltages that are discharged by your body as your heart pumps blood, feeding it to a computer. The computer can then display or print out the waveform, which a cardiac specialist then interprets to see if your heart functions normally.Your heart beats due to electrical impulses that occur rhythmically in a specific pattern. Any abnormalities in these impulses may suggest a cardiac disorder or disease.However, an EKG is not a complete assessment of your heart's health, and here's why.

Can You Have A Heart Attack With A Normal EKG?

Yes. An EKG cannot show other abnormalities in your circulatory system, such as blockages in your arteries.The arteries and veins that carry blood to and from the organs in your body can accumulate plaque or fatty deposits, reducing their blood-carrying capacity. If these plaques develop in coronary arteries, it can be deadly, as these arteries carry blood to the heart muscles themselves. So, you might have a normal ECG, but fatty deposits in your blood vessels can increase the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke.Remember that heart attacks are not always the dramatic occurrences depicted in television and movies. Some people can have heart attacks without any symptoms or pain at all, which is why it's important to take the common symptoms of a heart attack seriously:

  • shortness of breath
  • tightness in the chest
  • pain in the chest that may radiate to the jaw, back, or arm
  • an impending sense of doom

If you encounter any of these symptoms, call 911. Even if it later turns out to be trivial, the potential outcomes can be fatal.

Conclusion: An EKG Is Not The Final Word On Your Heart Health

While an EKG is a reliable tool for detecting electrical abnormalities in your heart rhythm, there is more to your circulatory system than just the heart. If you have any doubts about your cardiac health, a qualified professional cardiologist can help perform a thorough check to ensure your cardiovascular system is healthy.At the Northwest Cardiovascular Clinic in Houston, TX, we listen to all of our patients and keep you confident and comfortable through our high-quality care practices. We're equipped to perform a comprehensive suite of tests to diagnose any potential heart problems. These include electrocardiography, heart rhythm monitoring, and blood tests. If you have any questions or concerns, you can reach us at (281) 807-5253.We look forward to hearing from you.

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