By measuring the intervals between the heart's electrical impulses, a doctor can determine if your heartbeat is regular or irregular, and by measuring the strength of each electrical impulse, the doctor can determine if your heart is working too hard or not hard enough. These two metrics can indicate several types of heart damage, including:
- Congenital heart defects
- Heart valve disease
- Pericarditis (an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart)
- Hypertrophy of the heart chamber walls or blood vessels
- Heart failure
That's a daunting list, but remember, diagnosis is the first step to treatment. The fix may be as simple as watchful waiting. If a case of pericarditis or arrhythmia is severe, a doctor may recommend medication, while he or she may elect to operate on a congenital heart defect. Knowing that you're at risk for heart failure could inspire you to eat better, exercise more and address the risk factors you can control. An EKG is the best way to figure out what your case calls for.