An electrocardiogram, otherwise known as EKG or ECG, is a test that measures the activity in your heart. Doctors use this test to determine whether there is any abnormal activity going on. An EKG is a short, painless test that will provide a considerable amount of information. If the test comes back abnormal, a question to ask is: can anxiety cause an abnormal EKG?
Since EKGs study heart rhythms, it is possible to have abnormal results not due to underlying heart conditions. For this reason, doctors should gather information about your current health to compare against the results. Certain conditions may cause an EKG to not pick up on some problems.
What is an EKG?
Your doctor will probably recommend that you have an EKG done at some point in your life. Electrocardiograms test your heart's electrical activity to see if you have heart disease or any other problems. These tests can also find other abnormalities, such as low or high calcium and high potassium.
The actual test consists of placing electrode patches on the skin of your legs, chest, and arms. It then records all kinds of valuable information for your doctor to review.
EKG tests your:
- Blood flow
- Strength of your heart muscles
- Heart rhythm
When the test is complete, the EKG machine will either print out or send a digital reading to a computer. Each line of the result represents electrical signals sent from your heart. Your doctor will then looks over the data and decide a path of action from there.
In the case of an anxiety-related abnormal EKG, your doctor may recommend medication or therapy. Mental health is just as important as physical health. If everything is not in order, you may continue to feel unwell. Even depression can cause abnormalities, so it is essential to take care of yourself.
Potential Causes of an Abnormal EKG
There are a few reasons your test results can come back abnormal. It is not always a bad sign, especially when your doctor considers other factors. The EKG can detect anything from medication side effects to a heart attack.
That does not mean that there is no point in getting one. Even if the results come back standard, it is better that you had it done because you never know what is happening in your body that you cannot see or feel.
After going over the results, your doctor will address any underlying problems that cause an abnormal EKG and reevaluate if needed. It might take some trial and error, but sometimes that is all that they can do. They might even tell you that you do not need any treatment at all. That depends on the reason, though, and they are as follows:
- High blood pressure
If you have high blood pressure, your EKG will likely come back abnormal.
- Physical heart abnormalities
Sometimes, the heart sections can differ in size or thickness, and the EKG will pick up on it.
- Medication side effects
Sodium channel blockers, some beta-blockers, and other medications can alter the heart rate.
- Heart attack
Of course, an EKG can find a heart attack, which is incredibly important to treat right away.
- Irregular heart rate
Whether you are nervous, having an anxiety attack, or if your heart is 'just doing that,' any elevated the heart rate affects the EKG results.
- Electrolyte imbalances
With and vital role in the health of your heart, EKGs may sense imbalanced electrolytes.
- Irregular heart rhythm
Everyone's heart has a unique rhythm. Any changes that you can feel, such as fluttering of the heart or skipping beats, will affect the EKG.
No matter the cause, your doctor can use the EKG to figure out the next step. It may be more tests or simple lifestyle changes, but you should take them seriously. Carelessness with heart health can cause severe problems in the long run.
Anxiety & The Heart Potentially Affecting EKG Tests
If you have anxiety, then it can affect your heart. You may feel it when your heart starts to race, and your breath deepens. When stress triggers the fight or flight response, something called tachycardia occurs. This term refers to an increased heart rate.
The fight or flight response triggers our body to release adrenaline. Because of that, your entire body is on high alert. As a result, your heart rate may increase.
Your blood circulation may narrow as well, which may cause tingling and numbness. All these symptoms directly affect the heart. Researchers have found definite links between heart health and anxiety, but they do not yet understand fully.
If untreated, anxiety disorders can cause trouble in the long term. Too much stress on the heart is not suitable for anyone. A stroke or heart attack may occur because of a constant state of anxiety.
Anxiety affecting electrocardiogram results may not occur if you are not anxious at the time. Since it can only read the current state of your heart, it will not see the anxiety. However, it may see the effects stress has already had on your heart.
An abnormal EKG result can mean several different things. The cause may not always be something as dangerous as a heart attack, but having the test is still important if your doctor would like to do one. It is better to find out if there is a problem sooner rather than later, so it will not worsen.
Electrocardiograms are sensitive to changes, and since anxiety affects the heart rate, those changes will show up in the results. After ruling out everything else, if your doctor finds that you are likely to have anxiety, they will have options to help with your recovery.
If you already know that you have anxiety, it is something important to mention before the test. This way, your doctor can keep it in mind while reading the results. They will then tailor your treatment, to what is best for you.