• By Jason Howland

Mayo Clinic Minute: High-tech heart monitors

November 2, 2021

It's like an auto mechanic running a diagnostic test on your car's engine while it's out of the garage and traveling down the road.

Wearable heart monitors are valuable tools that cardiologists use to determine if you are experiencing atrial fibrillation, which is your heart beating at an irregular or rapid rhythm.

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If you're having signs or symptoms of an irregular heart rhythm, or unexplained fainting or dizziness, your health care provider may recommend a Holter monitor.

"What it's monitoring is the electrical activity of the heart," says Dr. Christopher DeSimone, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist.

A Holter monitor is a small, wearable device that uses electrodes on your chest to record all of your heartbeats.

"You wear it for a certain period of time. A certain period of time can be a few hours, a week, 30 days, — as long as it takes for us to capture what your heart rhythm is doing," says Dr. DeSimone.

It captures that heart rhythm 24/7, including bedtime.

"If someone's having this bad rhythm and they're asleep, they'll never know and they'll never have symptoms. But we'll know because it's being caught, No. 1. And No. 2, we like to see what the heart rate does over a 24-hour period. A very important part of this is while you're asleep," says Dr. DeSimone.

Cardiologists like Dr. DeSimone say wearable monitors are invaluable tools for providers to determine what's wrong with the heart and how to fix it.

"It's measuring those episodes at the time of your symptoms. And it's important because then we can diagnose you and tell you, 'This is the disorder you have.' And then we can say, 'Here's how we can treat you,'" he says.

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