ABOUT 'BEAT YOUR A-FIB'...


"This book is incredibly complete and easy-to-understand for anybody. I certainly recommend it for patients who want to know more about atrial fibrillation than what they will learn from doctors...."

Pierre Jaïs, M.D. Professor of Cardiology, Haut-Lévêque Hospital, Bordeaux, France

"Dear Steve, I saw a patient this morning with your book [in hand] and highlights throughout. She loves it and finds it very useful to help her in dealing with atrial fibrillation."

Dr. Wilber Su Cavanaugh Heart Center, Phoenix, AZ

"Your book [Beat Your A-Fib] is the quintessential most important guide not only for the individual experiencing atrial fibrillation and his family, but also for primary physicians, and cardiologists."

Jane-Alexandra Krehbiel, nurse, blogger and author "Rational Preparedness: A Primer to Preparedness"



ABOUT A-FIB.COM...


"Steve Ryan's summaries of the Boston A-Fib Symposium are terrific. Steve has the ability to synthesize and communicate accurately in clear and simple terms the essence of complex subjects. This is an exceptional skill and a great service to patients with atrial fibrillation."

Dr. Jeremy Ruskin of Mass. General Hospital and Harvard Medical School

"I love your [A-fib.com] website, Patti and Steve! An excellent resource for anybody seeking credible science on atrial fibrillation plus compelling real-life stories from others living with A-Fib. Congratulations…"

Carolyn Thomas, blogger and heart attack survivor; MyHeartSisters.org

"Steve, your website was so helpful. Thank you! After two ablations I am now A-fib free. You are a great help to a lot of people, keep up the good work."

Terry Traver, former A-Fib patient

"If you want to do some research on AF go to A-Fib.com by Steve Ryan, this site was a big help to me, and helped me be free of AF."

Roy Salmon Patient, A-Fib Free; pacemakerclub.com, Sept. 2013


DIY rate monitors

My Top 5 Picks: Steve’s A-Fib Survival Kit for the Newly Diagnosed

By Steve S. Ryan, PhD

Your first experiences with Atrial Fibrillation have changed your life in a number of ways. As a former A-Fib patient (cured since 1998) I highly recommend these items when first diagnosed with this beast called ‘Atrial Fibrillation’.

 My Top 5 Recommendations for the Newly Diagnosed

These are the products I recommend (and use) along with a Bonus: a good medical dictionary. These items are available from many online sources, but I’ve made them easy to order by making a ‘Wish List’ on Amazon.com. (Note: Use our Amazon portal link, and your purchases help support A-Fib.com.)

Magnesium Mg Drs Best1. Doctor’s Best High Absorption Magnesium (200 Mg Elemental), 240-Count

Most A-Fib patients are deficient in Magnesium (Mg). While Magnesium (Mg) is one of the main components of heart cell functioning, it seems to be chronically lacking in most diets.

One form of easily absorbed magnesium is Magnesium glycinate, a chelated amino acid. Look for the label ‘Albion Minerals’ designed to limit bowel sensitivity. Dosage: 600-800 mg daily in divided dosages (meals and bedtime). Read more about Magnesium.

Potassium NOW bottle2. Now Foods Potassium Gluconate Pure Powder, 1-pound

Just like magnesium deficiency, A-Fib patients are usually deficient in Potassium as well. We recommend the powder in order to take the recommended dose of 1600-2400 mg per day.

Be cautious of potassium tablets. For example those listed as 540 mg ONLY contain 99 mg of Potassium. Read more about Potassium.

BYA cover3. Beat Your A-Fib: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Cure: Written in everyday language for patients with Atrial Fibrillation

A-Fib can be cured! That’s the theme of this book written by a former A-Fib patient and publisher of the patient education website, A-Fib.com. Empowers patients to seek their cure. Written in plain language for A-Fib patients and their families.

Polar FT2 Heart Rate Monitor at A-Fib.com4. Polar FT2 Heart Rate Monitor, Black or Blue

Many A-Fib patients want to monitor their heart rate when exercising or doing strenuous tasks (mowing the lawn, moving equipment, etc.) This is a basic DIY model with a clear, LARGE number display of your heart rate (as a number). Requires wearing the included T31 coded transmitter chest strap.

One-button start. Includes a FT2 Getting Started Guide.

Also look at other Polar models: FT1 & RS3000X. I wore a Polar monitor when I had A-Fib, so it’s my brand of choice, but there are many other good brands.

Oximeter image5. Facelake Fl400 Pulse Oximeter

Many A-Fib patients also suffer with undiagnosed sleep apnea. A finger Oximeter is an easy way to check your oxygen level. A reading of 90% or lower means you should talk to your doctor as you may need a sleep study.

Oxford Med DictionaryBONUS: Concise Medical Dictionary (Oxford Quick Reference)

An excellent medical dictionary, the best I’ve found for patients with Atrial Fibrillation who are conducting research into their best treatment options. Includes occasional illustrations (for fun check p. 276 for the types of fingerprint patterns).

Learn More about…

For more suggestions, see my Amazon.com ‘Wish List’ By a Former A-Fib Patient: My Recommended Products.

A-Fib Support Volunteers at A-Fib.com

Learn about our A-Fib Support Volunteers

Our A-Fib Support Volunteers: Just an Email Away

After being diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation, it’s helpful to talk with someone who knows what you are going through, someone you can turn to for advice, emotional support, and a sense of hope that you can be cured. That’s the role of our A-Fib Support Volunteers.

They offer you support and encouragement through exchanging emails and sharing their stories. (Not all Support Volunteers are ‘cured’ of their A-Fib, but have found the best outcome for their situation.) Learn about our world-wide network and how to contact one or more of our volunteers.

DIY Heart Rate Monitors: How They Work For A-Fib Patients (Part II)

Polar Heart Rate Monitors

Go to: DIY Heart Rate Monitors

by Steve S. Ryan, PhD, Updated April 2015

A-Fib patients sometimes use consumer ‘DIY” Heart Rate Monitors (HRM) when exercising or performing physically demanding activities (For specific models and options, see our article, DIY Heart Rate Monitors & Handheld ECG Monitors Part I.)

How Do DIY Heart Rate Monitors Work?

Basic HRMs use a chest strap to pick up the electrical signals from the heart. However, due to the inherent design of the chest strap, the accuracy is somewhat limited and is no replacement for the signals recorded by a Holter or Event Monitor.

Heart-Rhythm-Monitors-EKG - 325 pix wide at 96 resA HRM keeps track of your heart’s R-R interval or the time between R peaks. Without getting too technical, the R peak on a generic ECG waveform (see the diagram) corresponds to the ventricle beat (depolarization) and has the largest amplitude (height) of the complete waveform.

When the amplitude (picked up as a voltage differential) exceeds a certain threshold, a “beat” is picked up by the chest strap and transmitted wirelessly to the HRM. It is the time between these R peak “beats” that is used by the HRM to determine instantaneous heart rate. It is only going to pick up episodes of arrhythmia as are manifested in ventricle beats (the R on the waveform).

Learn more about the EKG signal, see Steve’s article: Understanding the EKG (ECG) Signal.

So if your arrhythmia manifests itself in funky R activity (higher than normal rate) you will see a corresponding readout on the HRM. In this same light, an irregular or unevenly spaced R peaks will not be picked up by the HRM.

This is one of the fundamental differences in how data is recorded by HRMs (R-R interval) versus Holter/Event Monitors (actual waveform).

In fact, this is what Polar has to say:

Polar products are not designed to detect arrhythmia or irregular rhythms and will interpret them as noise or interference. The computer in the wrist unit will make error corrections, so that arrhythmia beats are not included in the averaged beats per minute. The blinking heart symbol in the face of the unit, however, will continue to show all heart beats received.

In most cases the Polar products will work fine for persons with arrhythmia.

Example PC interface capability of a Polar PC program.

Graphic example PC interface capability of a Polar PC program.

HRM Recording Capability

Most HRMs provide some internal storage recording capability. While lower cost HRMs simply record low, high and average heart rate, upper end models allow you to download heart rate data to your PC.

App-enabled smartphones are changing how this data is viewed, collected and saved for future review.

How To Setup and Use an HRM

On most of the HRMs, you can set a heart rate zone, and the watch monitor (or app-enabled smartphone) will record how long you stayed in that zone.

You could then program a high heart rate zone which you might only enter if you were in A-Fib. That way you could record how long you stayed in A-Fib and what your max heart rate was. This data could be reviewed on the watch monitor (or app-enabled smartphone) without having to download it to a PC.

On HRMs with PC interface capability, you can view data in a graphic form (on some watches/smartphones you can view the graphic data but with lower resolution.) This analyses could tell you when you were at a higher heart rate—A-Fib—and how long you stayed there. Of course these kinds of features require some PC skills, but typically the programs are pretty user friendly. (See the above graphic example of a Polar PC program).

For more, see our article, DIY Heart Rate Monitors & Handheld ECG Monitors.

Shop Amazon.com for Heart Rate Monitors & Handheld ECG monitors for A-Fib Patients. When you use this link, your purchases generate a small commission (at no extra cost to you) which we apply to the maintenance costs of A-Fib.com. Help A-Fib.com become Self-Supporting!

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Last updated: Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Consumer Handheld ECG Monitors

by Steve S. Ryan, PhD, April 2015

This category of consumer monitors has been growing of late. Going beyond just monitoring your heart rate and plus, these units capture data and display it as an ECG (EKG) in real time.

AliveCor AC-009-UA-A Heart Monitor by AliveCorAliveCor with logo

Detects A-Fib. Attaches to the back of your iPhone; ECG is obtained by holding the iPhone and placing at least 1 finger from each hand on the electrodes embedded into the back of the phone case.

Your data is accessible through the AliveECG app, also stored on secure, encrypted servers, so you can view them anywhere and share them with your doctor.

Newest model is 3rd generation (Doctor prescription no longer required).”

The HeartCheck™ PEN handheld ECG device from CardioComm Solutions

Heart Check Pen

The HeartCheck™ PEN handheld ECG device from CardioComm Solutions

The HeartCheck™ PEN handheld ECG device is the only device of its kind cleared by the FDA for consumer use. No prescripton required. (There is second device that does require a prescription to order it, the HeartCheck™ ECG Handheld Monitor.)

The pocket-sized PEN allows you to take heart readings from anywhere, the moment symptoms appear. Then using the USB cable provided, connect the device to your PC and run ‘GEMS™ Home’ program to upload your heart rhythm files containing your ECGs and send it to a physician or ECG Coordinating Center (for a fee). The  ECG Coordinating Center or physician will create an ECG report on your heart analysis identifying any potential issues. The report will be made available on your PC through the GEMS™ Home program.

There’s a good review of the Heart Check pen by  over at LivingWithAtrialFibrillation.com (posted Sept. 2013). Robert goes into great detail about how to “unlock” your device to you can see the actual reading, the costs of reports (the first one is free), and the details about how all this works. There’s even a $20 off discount code if you order from the manufacturer’s website. There’s also a video at:  http://www.theheartcheck.com/products/

Keep in mind that the HeartCheck™ PEN reports aren’t meant to be used for diagnosis in an emergency. Reviews on Amazon.com are mixed, but it may work for you. Read one or both of the reviews mentioned above.

XXX

Handheld ECG Monitor CMS-80A from FaceLake (or Contec)

Facelake Hand-Held Single Channel ECG, ECG 80A Link

Facelake Hand-Held ECG 80A (Helps support A-Fib.com)

Note: Read about how Tom Burt used the CMS-80A in his Personal Experience story. He writes, “This came in very handy as a way to inform my EP when I did get out of rhythm. This was done by faxing him a strip of the printout.”

The CMS-80A is a single channel, 12 lead monitor which can provide data via one of three ways: on the unit display, via the thermal printer internal to the unit or via a USB connection to a PC. The printout from the unit offers the easiest and most accurate means to view lead output. While you can view lead output on the display, you will find that it is not to the same level of detail as the printout.

Like most normal ECG monitors, 10 electrodes are attached to the body as follows: 6 suction cup leads to the chest and 4 alligator clip leads to the arms and legs. The unit does not rely on the normal press-on style contacts but rather takes a simpler approach with its reusable contacts. Personally, I [Ed Webb] wasn’t too impressed with the suction cup style contacts as they feel funny and leave a mark as if you had been attacked by an octopus. But they seemed to do the job. The alligator clips, while funky, were quick and easy to attach.

The waveforms presented are not what you would expect from an ECG in your cardiologist’s office, but they can provide the simple basics to make a quick determination whether you are in A-Fib. In particular, by examining the output from Lead II, or perhaps Lead aVF, you can quickly observe the absence of a P wave—one sign that you may be in A-Fib. Additionally, examining R-R intervals and whether they are uniformly spaced can be another means to aid in that determination.

Facelake Hand-Held Single Channel ECG, ECG 80A Link

Facelake Hand-Held ECG 80A

From a practical perspective, it could be that you choose to only attach the alligator leads to your arms and legs and forego using the chest leads. You will obviously not have the data from the chest leads (V1 to V6), but that information may not be needed for A-Fib purposes.

Note: This unit does not require a prescription from your doctor. For more info and to see what the display looks like, use this link to go to Facelake.com. The CMS-80A (ECG-80A) can be purchased directly from Facelake.com and (using our portal link) from Amazon.com.

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 In-Depth Report Of ECG Monitors

For an extensive evaluation of the above three hand-held ECG monitor with multiple photos and scans see James Grier’s Comparison of Handheld, 1-Lead/Channel ECG/EKG Recorders” at  http://www.ndsu.edu/pubweb/~grier/Comparison-handheld-ECG-EKG.html

Report: Comparison of Handheld, 1-lead/Channel ECG/EKG Recorders

I’m pleased to share a great resource for anyone considering one of the newer hand-held ECG monitors. Comparison of handheld, 1-lead/channel ECG / EKG recordersby James W. Grier, Emeritus Professor of Biological Sciences, North Dakota State University. This report is extremely detailed and extensive (and was last updated March 19, 2014).

He tests and compares eleven units, includes multiple photos of each step of testing and multiple print outs of the results. (Jim’s first report was posted in 2006 and has been updated in 2008, 2013, and in March 2014).

It’s the most thorough report on the topic you will find anywhere. (BTW: We hope to get Jim to write an article or two for A-Fib.com about his own A-Fib. (He’s also involved with an upcoming A-Fib medical study about scuba diving that’s being developed by the dive-medical organization, Divers Alert Network, or DAN.)

Jim Grier’s report,Comparison of handheld, 1-lead/channel ECG / EKG recorders includes the three monitors we discuss below. Go to http://www.ndsu.edu/pubweb/~grier/Comparison-handheld-ECG-EKG.html

Amazon button with glowHelp A-Fib.com become Self-Supporting! Use our ‘portal’ link to Amazon.com. When you do, your purchases generate a small commission (at no extra cost to you) which we apply to the maintenance costs of A-Fib.com. Bookmark this link for future purchases. Go to Amazon.com using A-Fib.com’s ‘portal link

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Last updated: Friday, January 1, 2016

FAQs Coping With Your A-Fib Day-to-Day Issues

FAQs A-Fib afibFAQs Coping With Your Atrial Fibrillation: Day-to-Day Issues

Coping with your Atrial Fibrillation means a patient and their family have many and varied questions. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about dealing with the day-to-day issues of having Atrial Fibrillation. (Click on the question to jump to the answer.)

1.  I like my cardiologist, but he has not talked about me seeing an Electrophysiologist. Should I ask for a second opinion from another cardiologist?”
2. Is there any way to predict when I’m going to have an A-Fib attack?”
3. Should I exercise when in A-Fib or skip it and rest? Can I damage my heart if I exercise in A-Fib?”
4. How long do I have before I go into chronic or permanent A-Fib? I know it’s harder to cure. My A-Fib episodes seem to be getting longer and more frequent.”
5. They want to do an Atrial Flutter-only ablation, will that help if I possibly have A-Fib as well?”
6.  Is smoking medical marijuana or using Marinol going to trigger or cause A-Fib? Will it help my A-Fib?
7.  “During an A-Fib episode, when should I call paramedics (911 in the US) and/or take my husband to the hospital? I’m petrified. I need a plan.”
8. I have a lot of extra beats and palpitations (PVCs or PACs) They seem to proceed an A-Fib attack. What can or should I do about them?”
9.   “How do I know which is the best A-Fib treatment option for me?”
10. When my husband has an Atrial Fibrillation episode, what can I do for him? How can I be supportive?”
11. How can I tell when I’m in A-Fib or just having something like indigestion?”
12.What kind of monitors are available for atrial fibrillation? Is there any way to tell how often I get A-Fib or how long the episodes last?”
13. I’m an athlete with A-Fib and have a naturally slow heart rate. My doctor says I need a pacemaker because my heart rate is too slow.”
14. Can excess iron in the blood cause Atrial Fibrillation? How do I know? If I have Iron Overload Deficiency (IOD), what can I do about it?”
15. Can too little iron in the blood (Anemia) cause Atrial Fibrillation? What can I do about iron deficiency?”
16.Is it possible to have a single A-Fib attack and not have any others? I had a single episode of A-Fib and was successfully converted in the ER with meds.”
17. “My mom is 94 with A-Fib. Are there consumer heart rate monitors she can wear to alert me at work if her heart rate exceeds a certain number?”
18. Can I have A-Fib when my heart rate stays between 50-60 BPM? My doctor tells me I have A-Fib, but I don’t always have a rapid heart rate.”
19. I’m in Chronic A-Fib. Can I improve my circulation, without having to undergo a Catheter Ablation or Surgery?”

20. “In one of your articles it said that having an ablation was better than living in A-Fib. I’ve been taking 75 mg of propafenone 3X/day for seven years and have only had 5 A-Fib attacks in 7 years. If your article means all types of A-Fib [including Paroxysmal], then I will consider an ablation.

21. “Both my uncles and my Dad have Atrial Fibrillation. I’m 50 years old and so far I don’t have A-Fib (yet), but I’m worried. How can I avoid developing A-Fib? Can dietary changes help? Or lifestyle changes?

22. In case I have a stroke, what does my family need to know to help me? (I’m already on a blood thinner.)  What can I do to improve my odds of surviving it?”

Last updated: Sunday, March 27, 2016
Return to Frequently Asked Questions

BYA ad - A-Fib Alerts discount offer 600 x 500 pix 300 res

FAQs Coping with A-Fib: DIY Heart Rate Monitors

 FAQs Coping with A-Fib: DIY Monitors

See MyPulse by Smart Monitors- long range at Amazon.com

MyPulse (long distance) by Smart Monitors at Amazon.com

17. “I care for my mom who has A-Fib. She is 94 and sees a doctor on a regular basis. She gets A-Fib attacks maybe once every two weeks and usually in the morning. But I work full time. Is there a heart rate monitor my mom can wear that would alert me when her heart rate is over a certain number? That way I can be alerted even when I’m at work.”

Yes, MyPulse by Smart Monitors, Inc. has a solution for you. This is a practical alternative to the expense of a medical monitoring service if you are just interested in simple heart rate data. Most consumer heart rate monitors rely on a chest strap which transmits heart rate data to a wristwatch. The MyPulse Long Range Monitor has a small Repeater device carried by the person wearing the chest strap. The Repeater transmits the data to a Receiver which is connected to a PC/notebook via a USB port. The MyPulse application runs on a PC and provides a graphic display of real time heart rate data.

The software can be configured to provide alerts via email or text message to multiple recipients if a preset heartbeat limit is exceeded.

Here are the cool parts: the software can be configured to provide alerts via email or text message to multiple recipients if a preset heartbeat limit is exceeded (such as might occur if the wearer goes into A-Fib). For the more tech savvy, a PC mirror app on your smart phone lets you view real time heart rate data at anytime, anywhere. Check out the MyPulse website or see the array of MyPulse the Smart Monitors on Amazon.com. For a more in depth discussion see Treatments/Diagnostics: A Primer: Ambulatory Heart Rhythm Monitors.

(Thanks Julie Skarbeck for this important question and to Ed Webb for doing the research and writing about the Smart Monitor.)

Back to FAQs: Coping with Your A-Fib

Guide to DIY Heart Rate Monitors & Handheld ECG Monitors (Part I)

Consumer Heart Rate Monitors (HRMs) and Handheld ECG monitors

by Steve S. Ryan, PhD, Updated April 2015

A-Fib patients sometimes want to monitor their heart rate and pulse when exercising or when performing physically demanding activities (i.e., mowing the lawn, climbing stairs, loading and unloading equipment, etc.). A consumer ‘DIY” monitor or Handheld ECG monitor may meet this need.

We’ve sorted through the plethora of products and brands and recommend several products in a range of prices and features.

 Types of Consumer HRS

Consumer, DIY or ‘Sport’ Heart Rate Monitors (HRM) are designed for runners and other recreational athletes to collect helpful data for lifestyle and training (pace, distance, heart rate, pulse, etc.).

Heartbeat sensors are either attached to a chest (or arm) band or built-in to wearable technology and paired with a wireless link to a wrist watch or app-enabled smartphone. HRMS are available from sporting goods stores and online from Amazon.com and other sites.

The Gold Standard brand for HRMs is Polar. (The first EKG accurate wireless heart rate monitor was invented by Polar back in 1977 as a training tool for the Finnish National Cross Country Ski Team.) You can view the extensive range of Polar products at PolarUSA.com. Other companies offering consumer ‘Sport Heart Rate Monitors’ include Timex, Garmin, Acumen, Nike, and Cardiosport plus a host of others if you shop around.

To learn how HRMs work, recording capabilities and how they can help A-Fib patients monitor their heart rate, see our article DIY Heart Rate Monitors: How They Work For A-Fib Patients (Part II).

To help you sort through their extensive offerings, I narrowed down the choices to a few basic and advanced wristwatch models, Bluetooth models, and the newer wearable technology each in an array of price points.

Polar FT4

Polar FT4 with chest band sensor

Wrist Watch Monitors

Consists of two components. These HRMs use sensors attached to a heart rate strap that wraps around the chest, and sends a wireless signal to the wrist unit. Some models connect with compatible gym equipment using GymLink. (More features = higher prices.) A few to consider:

♥  Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor Watch (about $45)
♥  Polar RS300X Heart Rate Monitor (about $85)
♥  Polar FT60 Fitness Heart Rate Monitor Watch ($100-$110)
♥  Polar M400 GPS Sports Watch & Activity Tracker (about $150-$350)

GObeat bluetooth

GObeat Bluetooth HRM for use with Smartphones

Bluetooth App-Enabled Monitors for Smartphones

Smartphones are now ubiquitous. For many, their smartphone is an essential part of their standard gear. So, it’s no wonder that a smartphone can replace the wrist watch monitor. Today, you can use Bluetooth technology to send the signal from your heart rate chest strap to an app-enabled smartphone. Here are a couple to consider:

♥  Polar H7 Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate Sensor (about $65)
♥  60beat BLUE Heart Rate Monitor for iPhone and most newer Androids (about $35)
♥  Jarv Premium Bluetooth® 4.0 Smart Heart Rate Monitor for Android Devices (about $28)

Bandless Sensors

A replacement for the chest strap for those who find a chest strap uncomfortable or chafing, “wearable technology” offers new options.

Wearable technology

Wearable technology

With these workout clothes, sensors are built in—to a women’s jogging bra or men’s t-shirt (there are also HRM caps, headbands and visors). For example:

♥  Weartech Men’s Gow Smart Sports T-Shirt (Intergrated Cardiac Sensors) ($59-$79)
♥  Weartech Women’s Gow Smart Sports Bra (Intergrated Cardiac Sensors) ($39-79)
♥  Polar Cardio Sports Bra  (about $49)

Note: these items replace the chest band only. Unless sold as a set, you still need a Heart Rate monitor to snap on to the front of the garment such as the
♥   GOW Bluetooth 4.0 Heart Rate Monitor (about $40)
and you will need something to receive the signal—a wrist watch monitor or app-enabled smartphone.

Amazon button with glowShop Amazon.com for Heart Rate Monitors & Handheld ECG monitors for A-Fib Patients. When you use this link, your purchases generate a small commission (at no extra cost to you) which we apply to the maintenance costs of A-Fib.com. Help A-Fib.com become Self-Supporting!

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 Types of Handheld ECG Monitors

See “Comparison of handheld, 1-lead/channel ECG / EKG recorders” by James W. Grier, for an extremely detailed report of 14 Handheld ECG Monitors

This category of consumer monitors has been growing of late with some models having only limited track records. Going beyond just monitoring your heart rate, these units capture data and display it as an ECG (EKG) in real time. (Some units in this category require a doctor’s prescription.)

With prices ranging from $129 to $500 you need to consider size (portability) and ease of use compared to price. Again, I’ve selected a few handheld ECG monitors from the plethora of choices.

AliveCor Heart Monitor by AliveCor

Left: AliveCor snap-on unit (3rd generation); Right: AliveECG app on smartphone screen

Excerpt from Patient Review: AliveCor Heart Monitor for SmartPhones by Frances Koepnick:

FDA-cleared for detection of atrial fibrillation (A-Fib), the AliveCor Heart Monitor when combined with its AliveECG App provides a 30-second, one lead electrocardiogram (ECG). In addition to an ECG, this monitor also determines heart rate in beats per minute (BPM).

This easy-to-use device attaches to iPhones (models 4 thru 6) by means of a snap-on phone case. It is also available for some compatible smartphones and mobile devices other than iPhones.

AliveCor ECG reading displayed on smartphone screen

AliveCor ECG reading displayed on smartphone screen

An ECG reading is obtained by holding the iPhone with both hands and placing at least 1 finger from each hand on the electrodes embedded into the back of the phone case. Your data is accessible through the AliveECG app. it’s also stored on AliveCor secure, encrypted servers, so you can view them anywhere and share them with your doctor.

For more specifics on the AliveCor AC-009-UA-A, continue reading our February 2015 report Patient Review: AliveCor Heart Monitor for SmartPhones by Frances Koepnick.

Note: Be sure to get the newest model—the 3rd generation. (Doctor prescription no longer required.) About $75.

The HeartCheck™ PEN handheld ECG device from CardioComm Solutions

HeartCheck - unlock view 400 pix wide at 96 res

HeartCheck Pen

The HeartCheck™ PEN handheld ECG device is the only device of its kind cleared by the FDA for consumer use. No prescripton required. (A second device, the HeartCheck™ ECG Handheld Monitor does require a prescription to order.)

The pocket-sized PEN allows you to take heart readings from anywhere, the moment symptoms appear. Then using the USB cable provided, connect the device to your PC and run ‘GEMS™ Home’ program to upload your heart rhythm files containing your ECGs and send it to a physician or ECG Coordinating Center (for a fee).

There’s a good review of the Heart Check pen by  over at LivingWithAtrialFibrillation.com (posted Sept. 2013). Robert goes into great detail about how to “unlock” your device so you can see the actual reading, the costs of reports (the first one is free), and the details about how all this works. There’s even a $20 off discount code if you order from the manufacturer’s website.

There are also user videos at: HeartCheck™ ECG PEN Tips and Common Errors

Keep in mind that the HeartCheck™ PEN reports aren’t meant to be used for diagnosis. Reviews on Amazon.com are mixed, but it may work for you. Read one or both of the reviews mentioned above. About $259.

Handheld ECG Monitor CMS-80A from FaceLake (or Contec Medical Systems)

Facelake Hand-Held Single Channel ECG, ECG 80A Link

Facelake Hand-Held ECG 80A

Note: Read about how Tom Burt used the CMS-80A in his Personal Experience story. He writes, “This came in very handy as a way to inform my EP when I did get out of rhythm. This was done by faxing him a strip of the printout.”

The Contec CMS-80A is a single channel, 12 lead monitor which can provide data via one of three ways: on the unit display, via the thermal printer internal to the unit or via a USB connection to a PC. The printout from the unit offers the easiest and most accurate means to view lead output. While you can view lead output on the display, you will find that it is not to the same level of detail as the printout.

Like most normal ECG monitors, 10 electrodes are attached to the body as follows: 6 suction cup leads to the chest and 4 alligator clip leads to the arms and legs. The unit does not rely on the normal press-on style contacts but rather takes a simpler approach with its reusable contacts. Personally, I [Ed Webb] wasn’t too impressed with the suction cup style contacts as they feel funny and leave a mark as if you had been attacked by an octopus. But they seemed to do the job. The alligator clips, while funky, were quick and easy to attach.

Facelake Hand-Held Single Channel ECG, ECG 80A Link

Thermal paper in Facelake Hand-Held Single Channel ECG, ECG 80A – link

The waveforms presented are not what you would expect from an ECG in your cardiologist’s office, but they can provide the simple basics to make a quick determination whether you are in A-Fib. In particular, by examining the output from Lead II, or perhaps Lead aVF, you can quickly observe the absence of a P wave—one sign that you may be in A-Fib. Additionally, examining R-R intervals and whether they are uniformly spaced can be another means to aid in that determination.

From a practical perspective, it could be that you choose to only attach the alligator leads to your arms and legs and forego using the chest leads. You will obviously not have the data from the chest leads (V1 to V6), but that information may not be needed for A-Fib purposes.

Thermal printout from the Handheld ECG Monitor CMS-80A ECG

Note: This unit does not require a prescription from your doctor. For more info and to see what the display looks like, visit the Contec product information page. The CMS-80A (ECG-80A) can be purchased directly from Facelake.com and other locations online ($299-$380).

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 Remote Smart Monitors

MyPulse Provides Email or Text Message Alerts

Are you worried about a relative in A-Fib whom you can’t be with all the time? There is a long range heart monitor your relative can use which will transmit to you if he/she goes into A-Fib or exceeds a normal heart rate.

MyPulse by Smart Monitors link

MyPulse (home model) by Smart Monitors

If you have a need to monitor a relative’s or friend’s heart rate or want to know if your relative or friend has gone into A-Fib, MyPulse by Smart Monitors, Inc. has a solution for you. (Prices range from  $149 – $495.) This is a practical alternative to the expense of a medical monitoring service if you are just interested in simple heart rate data. Obviously, if there are medical concerns relative to the heart arrhythmia, you should find an appropriate medical monitoring solution in concert with the patient’s cardiologist. But if you are looking for an alternative to a medical service, read on.

Most heart rate monitors rely on a chest strap which transmits heart rate data to a wristwatch, bike computer or even smart phone worn or carried by the individual. The MyPulse Long Range Monitor is no different, but instead of the watch to read the data, it has a small Repeater device which is carried by the individual (or located within 3’ of the person wearing the chest strap). The Repeater transmits the data to a Receiver which is connected to a PC/notebook via a USB port.

The combination of Repeater/Receiver gives the wearer a practical range of throughout the house (the kind of range you would expect to see on a Wi-Fi network for instance) and up to 1000’ if the Receiver has an unobstructed view of the Repeater. The MyPulse application runs on the PC and provides a graphic display of real time heart rate data.

Bluetooth mid range/global range monitor

This is the cool part: the software can be configured to provide alerts via email or text message to multiple recipients (such as a caregiver) if a preset limit is exceeded (such as might occur if the wearer goes into A-Fib). For you more tech savvy people, if you want to run a PC mirror app on your smart phone, you can view the real time heart rate data at anytime, anywhere, and not have to worry about waiting for an alert if a limit is exceeded.

All in all, this is a remote heart rate monitor solution that provides a low cost alternative to a medical monitoring service if you and your cardiologist determine you don’t need such a service. Check out the MyPulse by Smart Monitor, Inc. on their website and from Amazon.com (using our portal link).

March 2015 Update: Additional MyPulse solutions include Bluetooth models: Bluetooth mobilePlus edition monitor, $149 and Advanced home edition bluetooth mid range/global range monitor. $299.

 In-Depth Report Of ECG Monitors

Report: Comparison of Handheld, 1-lead/Channel ECG/EKG Recorders

I’m pleased to share a great online resource for anyone considering one of the newer hand-held ECG monitors. “Comparison of handheld, 1-lead/channel ECG / EKG recorders” by James W. Grier, Emeritus Professor of Biological Sciences, North Dakota State University. This report is extremely detailed and extensive (and was last updated January 26, 2015).

He tests and compares 14 units, includes multiple photos of each step of testing and multiple print outs of the results. It’s the most thorough report on the topic you will find anywhere.

Go to http://www.ndsu.edu/pubweb/~grier/Comparison-handheld-ECG-EKG.html

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Return to Index of Articles: Diagnostic Testing

Last updated: Wednesday, August 24, 2016

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