Heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death in the United States, which makes regular management and treatment more important than ever. If you’re interested in tracking your heart health at home, you might consider a portable electrocardiogram (EKG) device.

One of the leading brands is KardiaMobile, a home monitoring system made by AliveCor. Learn more about what this device can reveal about your heart health, its limitations, and when to talk with a doctor.

A portable EKG monitor is a personal device that’s designed to provide some of the same information as an advanced version that your doctor might use to test for heart disease.

A traditional EKG at a doctor’s office uses up to 12 small sensors called electrodes that are attached to your chest, legs, and arms. With this EKG, you lie down on the exam table as the nurse or doctor runs the machine.

The electrodes detect electrical activity in your heart, with abnormal results possibly pointing to:

  • heart damage or failure
  • a heart attack
  • arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • blocked arteries

Your doctor may recommend an in-office EKG test if you have signs of heart problems, or as a routine mechanism if you’re a middle-aged or older adult, or if heart disease runs in your family. They may also recommend self-monitoring as a way to check your heart health in between formal EKGs.

According to AliveCor, the basic KardiaMobile is designed to help detect the following heart-related issues:

A 2019 randomized clinical trial of 262 people found that KardiaMobile could be useful in helping patients detect early symptoms of AFib that they could then share with their doctor for a prompt diagnosis.

If you’re currently taking heart disease medications, this device may also help provide your doctor with additional insights to see if your treatment is working as it should. However, the KardiaMobile should not replace any recommended EKGs at your doctor’s office.

As of 2021, the full price of the original KardiaMobile was $89, and the KardiaMobile 6L was $149.

If you decide on the 6L version, you also have the option to enroll in a monthly KardiaCare membership priced at either $9.99 per month or $99 a year. The membership includes four reviews of your heart data by board certified cardiologists per year.

The company occasionally offers promotions, such as direct product discounts or add-ons such as a free clip to attach the device to the back of your phone.

While AliveCor doesn’t deal directly with medical insurance companies, you may be able to purchase the KardiaMobile with an eligible health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA). You’ll want to check this information with your insurance company ahead of time.

Shipping of the product is free in the United States. The company also offers a 1-year warranty and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

The KardiaMobile

KardiaMobile is a pocket-sized personal EKG device that allows you to measure your heart rate and rhythm and then capture the data on your linked smartphone.

According to AliveCor, the company that makes the device, you may be able to get medical-grade data that you can share with your doctor.

To use the KardiaMobile, you simply place your fingers on the two device sensors for 30 seconds. No electrodes are needed.

The results are immediately compiled and then displayed on your smartphone. From there, you have the option to email these results to your doctor.

The KardiaMobile 6L

Another more advanced version of this product is called the KardiaMobile 6L. This has the same basic features as the original, except that you get six different displays on your smartphone showing the following information:

  • AFib
  • bradycardia
  • tachycardia
  • sinus rhythm with supraventricular ectopy (SVE), which affects the top of your heart
  • sinus rhythm with wide QRS, which affects the bottom of your heart
  • premature ventricular contractions (PVCs)

The KardiaMobile EKG monitor is designed to help you track your heart health in between doctor’s visits. This includes irregular heartbeats that might be faster or slower than normal, as well as irregular rhythms.

AliveCor states that the KardiaMobile has “FDA clearance” to detect the heart issues the company advertises.

Rather than a full Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, this means that the product is cleared by the agency because KardiaMobile showed that it has similar benefits to other products that are either cleared or approved by the FDA, such as certain smartwatches.

While KardiaMobile can help detect your heart rate and related abnormalities, it cannot detect a heart attack. It’s also not compatible for use with implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) or pacemakers.

Also, while the company claims that the device is compatible with most smartphones, it doesn’t work with all newer Android and Apple products. Be sure to check the most recent compatibility list before purchasing.

Additionally, the device hasn’t been approved by any medical entity to detect or diagnose any disease. Instead, it’s beneficial to regard this product as a complement to other heart health management strategies your doctor has suggested.

In general, there aren’t any known risks associated with EKGs. This also includes portable devices you can use at home.

KardiaMobile shares some of the same heart health features as several smartwatches on the market, including certain versions of the Fitbit and Apple watches.

While many smartwatches measure your heart rate, only certain models include a built-in EKG that you can measure with your finger. This is done via electrodes on the face of the watch as well as sensors on the back that are placed against your wrist.

If you’re deciding between the KardiaMobile and a smartwatch, one primary consideration is the cost. While you can purchase the basic KardiaMobile model for under $100, smartwatches with EKG capabilities can cost several hundred dollars.

Still, you may consider a watch if you’re also looking for other tracking features, such as those related to fitness, daily steps, and sleep quality.

Also, like KardiaMobile, smartwatches can provide data but shouldn’t be solely relied upon for diagnosing any particular heart condition.

Before purchasing KardiaMobile, discuss the benefits with your doctor to see if this may be a good strategy to help you keep tabs on your heart health at home. You may also consider using a smartwatch to help track your daily activity.

Additionally, it’s important to talk with your doctor about managing some of the most common risk factors for heart disease, including:

Certain risk factors, such as age, preeclampsia during pregnancy, or family history of heart disease, aren’t in your control. However, you can let your doctor know your personal and family history so they can help identify and treat heart disease early.

Seek emergency medical care if you experience possible signs of a heart attack, such as:

  • chest pain
  • dizziness
  • sudden fatigue
  • nausea
  • stomach pain
  • pain in your arm that extends to your jaw
  • shortness of breath

Similar to a conventional EKG, the KardiaMobile device measures your heart’s electrical activity to help detect possible abnormalities in rate and rhythm. To get started, buy the device from the manufacturer and download the accompanying app on your smartphone.

While KardiaMobile can’t replace a full EKG conducted in a doctor’s office or hospital, the device may still provide valuable insights into your heart health. You can send the information to your doctor, or show them the data at your next appointment.

Any immediate concerns about your heart health ought to be addressed with your doctor or cardiologist right away. These include increasing shortness of breath during activities, fatigue, and chest discomfort.