TUESDAY, April 10 (HealthDay News) -- Minor changes in the results of a commonly used heart test -- an electrocardiogram, or EKG -- translate into a 35 percent increased risk of heart events, such as heart attacks, hospitalizations for chest pain or the need for heart surgery, in people over 70, according to new research.
For people with major abnormalities in their EKG, the risk of having a heart event is even higher, compared to people with normal tests.
"We analyzed data from the Health, Aging and Body Composition Study. More than 3,000 patients had an electrocardiogram done at baseline, but we only included the people who didn't have a previous history of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease, so no heart attacks or strokes," said lead study author Dr. Reto Auer, a research fellow in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.
"We found that people who had minor or major changes in their electrocardiogram had a greater risk of heart events," Auer said. "And, when we adjusted the data for commonly known risk factors -- smoking, cholesterol, body mass and high blood pressure -- we still found an association between minor or major EKG changes and heart events."
Results of the study are published in the April 11 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
An EKG is a painless and noninvasive test that records each heartbeat onto a piece of paper. To conduct the test, clinicians attach numerous wires to your chest and legs to capture each heartbeat.
The test is commonly included as part of a routine physical, though the widespread use of this test in people without any cardiac symptoms has recently come into question. While it may be noninvasive, it's not without risk. People who have abnormal test results are often referred to specialists and for more tests, which may be inv
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