When I was first experiencing stress-related body issues, my doctor ordered an EKG. The electrocardiogram didn’t show anything abnormal, so my doctor ordered a twenty-four hour test called a Holter monitor.
A Holter monitor is also known as an ambulatory electrocardiogram — it watches the electrical activity of your heart during your usual daily routine. The advantage of a longer test is that it has a better chance of detecting any abnormal heart activity during your day. Any heart problems may not show up during an EKG in the doctor’s office. Some people ONLY experience heart problems during certain activities, like sleeping, exercise, eating, or times of emotional stress. Wearing a Holter monitor gives you an opportunity to catch your heart’s behavior at those times. It can better detect arrhythmias, poor blood flow to your heart, and even monitor the effectiveness of treatments.
A Holter monitor is attached to your chest by a set of electrodes. The recording device can be worn on a strap over your shoulder or at your waist. The Holter monitor will take a continuous reading of your heart’s electrical impulses for up to 72 hours. While you are wearing the monitor, you will be asked to keep a diary of all your activities and any symptoms if you have them. When the test is complete, your doctor will compare your diary with the recorded heart pattern.
The usefulness and accuracy of this test depends strongly on your keeping an accurate diary of all activities and symptoms during the testing period.
Be sure to bathe BEFORE starting the Holter monitor test. You won’t be able to shower or bathe until after the test is done. Loose fitting clothes will be most comfortable for the duration of the test; skip the jewelry and metal buttons and buckles, because they can interfere with the recording. Don’t wear an underwire bra, either. Also try to avoid magnets, metal detectors, microwave ovens, and other electronic devices that send signals. They can sometimes interfere with the recording. Your doctor will give you a full list of things to do and things to avoid before you start the test.