Over the span of a 24-hour day, your heart will beat around 115,000 times and pump about 2,000 gallons’ worth of blood. Since it’s important that your heart beats fast enough to keep your blood circulating but slow enough to allow your organs and cells to draw the energy and sustenance that they need, the timing of these beats is crucial. So-called pacemaker cells– which are somewhat mysterious because scientists still don’t fully understand how they work— establish the heart’s rhythm by producing and transmitting electrical currents.
Since one in four Americans die of heart disease each year according to the CDC, the importance of identifying heart malfunction can’t be understated. Rhythmic irregularities are often the first sign that something’s wrong. Just as an experienced mechanic can search for signs of motor trouble just by listening to its sounds, doctors can detect various heart problems by analyzing the heart’s rhythm. Heart arrhythmia is a symptom of many different types of health issues, ranging from various types of heart diseases to high blood pressure and even diabetes.
Modern consumer-grade EKG monitors can not only collect actionable data for your doctor, but also alert you that you need to make an emergency call. Some are so small that they can fit on a keychain, while others are almost as accurate as the kind your doctor uses.
Here are the best EKG monitors you can buy:
- If you’re looking for high precision accuracy, AliveCor’s KardiaMobile 6L is your best option. Since it’s equipped with six leads, it measures your heart from six different electrical angles.
- EMAY’s Portable EKG is an inexpensive yet effective way to take an EKG reading anywhere, without the aid of a smartphone app.
- With its user-friendly LCD screen, smart capabilities and three-lead measurement system, SonoHealth’s Portable EKG Heart Rate Monitor offers a mix of features to accommodate a variety of different preferences and needs.
- ViATOM’s Pulsebit Mate ECG/EKG Heart Health Tracker is one of the few devices of its kind that lets you set up multiple user profiles. This makes it a good choice for couples that want to keep track of their heart health together.
- Because it’s small and thin yet durable enough to safely attach to a keychain, AliveCor’s KardiaMobile EKG Monitor is the best way to track your heart health when you’re traveling.
The most accurate EKG monitor
AliveCor KardiaMobile 6L
Most consumer grade EKG monitors are only equipped to read your heart information from one or two different electrical directions. AliveCor KardiaMobile has six leads, so it’s far more accurate. It’s about half as sensitive as the kind of EKG monitors that doctors use, which typically have 12 leads. Though the fact that this device doesn’t have a screen means that you need a smartphone to use it, this also makes it more discreet.
- More precise than other EKG monitors. Few other consumer EKG monitors are as sensitive as this one.
- Smartphone compatible. Supported mobile platforms include iOS, iPad and Android.
- Core app features are free. You don’t have to subscribe to the app to send your doctor data or save your results to your phone.
- Doesn’t look like a medical device. The subtle design lets you take readings discreetly without alerting others around you.
- Easy to set up. Since it’s Bluetooth compatible, connecting the KardiaMobile 6L to your smartphone takes just a few seconds.
- 30-day satisfaction guarantee with one-year warranty. If you’re unsatisfied for any reason or if your device has a manufacturing defect, you can get your money back.
- Costs more than most other EKG monitors. Since this EKG monitor has more sensors, it costs a bit more.
- Some features are only available with a paid subscription. You have to pay to unlock the Kardia app’s cloud data storage and medication tracking features.
In a nutshell
This EKG monitor is somewhat expensive and the optional subscription service adds an additional recurring cost. On the other hand, the KardiaMobile 6L may be a good investment. With six leads instead of just one, it’s sensitive enough to pick up subtle heart irregularities that a less sensitive monitor could miss.
The best budget EKG monitor
EMAY Portable EKG
If your insurance won’t cover your EKG monitor purchase and you want to save money, EMAY’s Portable EKG might be your best bet. Even though it only has one lead, it’s still more than accurate enough to track heart rhythm changes. There is no app, but you can still download your results to any Windows or Mac computer if you want. If you don’t, this device’s easy-to-read display will tell you everything you need to know.
- Inexpensive and affordable. This EKG monitor is a bargain because it combines a low price point with above-average features.
- You don’t need a smartphone to use it. For people that prefer to keep things simple when it comes to devices, this EKG’s lack of smart features could be an upside.
- No subscription fees. There are no hidden costs, locked features or upsells.
- Lightweight. Weighing in at just 0.22 pounds, this EKG is light enough to carry in a purse or pants pocket.
- Simple operation. You only have to wait 30 seconds for this device to do its job.
- 12-month warranty. If the device breaks because of a defect within 12 months, you can send it back and get a new one for free.
- No smart features. You can download your results to a Windows or Mac computer, but you can’t connect this device to a smartphone.
- Not as precise as other EKGs. Since this EKG only has one lead, its sensitivity is limited.
In a nutshell
If you don’t care about smart features or you want to save money, this EKG could be one of your best options. The main downside to consider is the fact that it only has one lead. Despite that, it’s still more than accurate enough to identify and track many types of heart issues.
The most user-friendly EKG monitor
SonoHealth Portable EKG Heart Rate Monitor
SonoHealth’s Portable EKG Heart Rate Monitor splits the difference between accuracy and affordability. It’s cheaper than many EKG monitors that you’ll find, yet it’s equipped with three leads instead of just one. However, it’s biggest attraction is that it’s very easy to operate. There are no confusing menus to flip through and you can see your heart information in real time. You can either use this EKG as a standalone device, or connect it to your smartphone via Bluetooth.
- Use it with or without the smartphone app. You can send data to your phone with Bluetooth or just read your results on the screen.
- Real-time results. Other EKGs require you to wait for your results, but with SonoHealth’s Portable EKG you can see your data in real time.
- Bright LCD screen. The display is bright and organized in a way that makes sense.
- Three leads. Many EKGs in this price range have limited sensitivity, but this one is equipped with three leads.
- No subscription fees. There are no sneaky hidden costs and SonoHealth won’t try to upsell you by putting some features behind a paywall.
- 60-day satisfaction guarantee. If for some reason you don’t like this gadget, you can send it back to SonoHealth at any time within the 60-day return window. There’s also an unlimited warranty against manufacturing defects.
- If you want the case, you have to purchase it separately. A carrying case is available, but you have to pay $19 more to get it.
In a nutshell
This EKG monitor has very few weaknesses. It’s accurate, reasonably priced, easy to use, measures your heart in real time and even has optional smart features. What’s more, the unlimited warranty and 60-day unconditional return policy show that SonoHealth is willing to stand behind this product.
The best multi-user EKG monitor
ViATOM Pulsebit Mate ECG/EKG Heart Health Tracker
If you and your spouse are both in need of an EKG monitor, the best solution is a device that’s equipped with the ability to accommodate two different user profiles. Without this key feature, you’ll end up buying two separate devices. ViATOM’s Pulsebit Mate is a solid multi-user EKG monitor that’s also equipped with three leads for greater accuracy.
- Supports two user profiles. This key feature lets you share the device with your spouse or a loved one.
- Intuitive display. Some smart EKGs can’t be operated without a phone, but this one can.
- Three leads. This EKG can analyze your heart from three different electrical positions.
- Light enough to carry it in your shirt pocket. Weighing in at just 0.14 pounds, ViATOM’s Pulsebit Mate is significantly lighter than most EKG monitors.
- Unlimited storage. In addition to the on-board storage, you can connect to a Windows PC and transfer an unlimited amount of data to your computer.
- No subscription plan. There are no locked features or upsells.
- 12-month warranty. If you find a manufacturing defect, you can send it back to ViATOM and get your money back within the 12-month window.
- No smartphone app. There’s no way to send your heart data directly to a phone.
- Only works with Windows PCs. The company has yet to produce software for Mac OS.
In a nutshell
The fact that ViATOM’s Pulsebit Mate doesn’t connect to smartphones and only supports Windows makes it seem a bit behind the times. However, if you’re looking for a three-lead EKG monitor that supports two different user profiles, it may be worth a look.
The best portable EKG monitor
AliveCor KardiaMobile EKG Monitor
The best thing about AliveCor’s KardiaMobile EKG Monitor is that it’s very small and lightweight. In fact, you can even use it as a keychain. The fact that it has no built-in screen means that you can use it discreetly without giving away that you’re taking an EKG reading. Supported devices include iPhones, iPads and Android phones.
- Small and compact. This EKG monitor weighs 0.22 pounds and is only 3.2 inches long. Since its only 1/5th of an inch thick, you can carry it with you anywhere.
- Discreet design. AliveCor’s KardiaMobile doesn’t look like a typical medical device at all. Nobody will be able to tell what you’re doing when you take a measurement.
- Works with tablets and smartphones. The device sends your data to AliveCor’s Kardia app.
- Contact your doctor directly. If an emergency occurs, you can email your doctor with the push of a button.
- All the main features are free. You don’t have to pay to unlock any of the features mentioned above.
- Keychain-style carrying case is available. AliveCor designed a custom case for the KardiaMobile.
- Other EKG monitors provide more data. Since this EKG monitor only has one lead, it’s limited in terms of the kind of information it can provide.
- You have to get the paid subscription to unlock some functions. Cloud storage is the main feature that the paid subscription unlocks. If you opt to not subscribe, you can still save your data to your smartphone’s hard drive.
In a nutshell
This portable little gadget that fits on a keychain looks nothing like an EKG monitor. This discreet design is meant to let you keep on top of your heart without worrying the people around you. On the other hand, the fact that it only has one lead means that its sensitivity is somewhat limited.
Buying guide for EKG monitors
Accuracy vs. price
A highly accurate at-home EKG monitor can measure the electrical activity of your heart from up to six different angles. Six-lead EKGs are highly sensitive and they can detect subtle fluctuations of the heart that could help you get ahead of a developing disease in its early stages. On the other hand, single-lead EKGs are much cheaper and sensitive enough to detect most obvious types of heart problems.
Compact size vs. built-in display
Some types of EKG monitors don’t have any type of built-in display. Without a smartphone, they’re useless. On the other hand, they’re also much smaller and more discreet. You can use a smart, screenless EKG monitor anywhere without drawing much attention to yourself.
Alerts and notifications
Many EKG monitors are equipped with algorithms that help you interpret your results. Alerts and notifications let you know when your numbers cross a certain threshold. To use an EKG monitor that lacks this feature, you need to rely on the help of a trained medical professional.
Bonus app features
Most smart EKG monitors come with their own proprietary apps. Some such apps only display your heart data, but others can do things like help you keep track of your medication and save your results to cloud storage.
Screen brightness and readability
Let’s be honest: if you have to squint at your EKG monitor’s screen every time you use it, you probably won’t stick with it for long. Because marketing materials may not give you a good idea of what an EKG monitor’s display looks like in real life, you may want to watch some YouTube reviews before you commit.
Most EKG monitors run on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, but others draw power from small button cells– the same type of batteries used in watches. Since only specialty electronics stores and watch repair shops sell these types of batteries, they’re somewhat of a hassle to replace.
Hidden costs, locked features and upsells
Before you buy a smart EKG monitor, you may want to see which of its apps features are free and which you have to pay extra for. Locked features can only be accessed by committing to a monthly subscription plan.
Multiple profiles give you the ability to share your EKG monitor with a loved one. Without this feature, you’ll need to buy two separate devices.
If the manufacturer has a vaguely worded warranty and doesn’t offer any type of satisfaction guarantee, be careful. Most quality EKG monitor makers are willing to stand by their products.
There are some good quality EKG monitors that you can buy for around $70, but these usually are equipped with only one lead and lack smart features.
If you’re willing to spend around $100, you can get an EKG monitor that can work with or without a smartphone. Other perks include bigger, brighter displays, customizable alerts and three leads for greater sensitivity.
Six-lead EKG monitors typically cost $150 or more but they provide doctors with much more detailed diagnostic information. In addition, the apps that come with premium EKG monitors often do more than just record your heart rate information.
Frequently asked questions
Q: How does an EKG monitor work?
A: EKG monitors measure the energy that’s produced by your heart’s electrical conduction system and display that information in graph form.
Q: How do consumer EKG monitors compare to the ones doctors use in hospitals?
A: Consumer EKG monitors come equipped with anywhere from one to six leads. Medical-grade EKGs are more sensitive because they have six leads.
Q: Are there any risks associated with EKG use?
A: No, because EKG monitors don’t generate electricity. They only read the electrical activity that your heart’s natural pacemaker cells generate.
Q: What’s the difference between an EKG and an ECG?
A: There is no difference. ECG and EKG are two different abbreviations of the same word: electrocardiogram. In Dutch, electrocardiogram is spelled with a K. The device’s inventor Willem Einthoven was from the Netherlands, which may be why the Dutch abbreviation is still the most commonly used.
- Studies suggest that lead II measurements (measurements taken via the left leg) tend to be more accurate compared to lead I measurements that are taken from the fingertips.
- Don’t submerge your EKG monitor in alcohol when you clean it. Doctors sometimes clean medical-grade EKG leads this way, but you shouldn’t use this approach to clean consumer-grade EKGs. Use alcohol spray or hand sanitizer instead.
- When taking fingertip readings, it sometimes helps to moisturize your fingers a bit. You can improve the accuracy of your results by putting some lotion on before you measure.
- Try to remain as still as possible when you use your EKG. A small slip of the finger can result in a reading that looks like atrial fibrillation.