Maj West
An electrocardiogram, referred to as an EKG or occasionally an ECG, is a test that records your heart’s electrical activity. Your doctor may order an EKG to look for complications of hypertension. Let’s check in with Dr. Phillips to hear more about this kind of test.

Dr. Phillips
Well, with each heartbeat, your heart emits an electrical signal. The pattern of these signals, when examined from different angles, gives your provider an overall picture of how your heart is functioning. An EKG test shows how fast your heart is beating, whether your heartbeat is steady or irregular, and the strength and timing of electrical signals as they pass through each part of your heart.

For patients being evaluated for hypertension, providers will likely order a twelve-lead EKG to determine whether the heart has been damaged by untreated hypertension. In particular, an EKG can help identify left ventricular hypertrophy, or LVH, and ischemic heart disease.

It’s called a twelve-lead EKG because it uses 12 soft, sticky patches called electrodes that attach to your arms, legs, and chest to detect your heart’s electrical signal from different areas of your body. The electrical activity is recorded on paper as a waveform. A single contraction is seen as a collection of lines, some going up and some going down, known as “waves.” There is the P-wave, the T-wave and the QRS complex. This collection of waves may look different depending upon which specific electrodes are collecting the information.

When your provider looks at the EKG, they look at the waves to see how high and low they go, as well as how wide or narrow they are. They also look for any differences in the shape of the waves. From this information, they can evaluate how effectively your heart is functioning, and how hard your heart is working to do its job.