Can you feel the beating of your heart in your stomach when lying down? This is called the aortic pulse, which is the throbbing of the largest artery in the body, the aorta. Your aorta originates from your heart’s left ventricle and runs down your abdomen to separate into two smaller arteries.
There are instances when feeling your pulse in your stomach is normal. However, sometimes it is also due to a condition known as abdominal aortic aneurysm, something that can be life-threatening if it ruptures since your aorta is a major blood vessel that supplies your body with oxygenated blood.
Prior to discussing abdominal aortic aneurysm, let us first tackle some of the common pulse points — points where you can feel the rhythmic throbbing of your arteries — in your body:
• Temporal artery – This is found just above the temples on each side of your forehead.
• Carotid artery – You have two carotid arteries, arteries that supply blood to the neck, face and brain, running in your neck, located on the left and right.
• Brachial artery – You can find this on the inside of your arm, opposite your elbow.
• Radial artery – This is where a nurse or doctor usually takes your pulse to count your heart rate, situated in the wrist, specifically right below your thumb.
• Femoral artery – It’s a large artery found in your thigh, and it’s the major supplier of blood to your lower limb.
• Posterior tibial artery – You can find this behind the so-called medial malleolus, the prominent bone on the inner side of your ankle. Doctors examine this pulse point when assessing peripheral vascular diseases.
• Dorsalis pedis artery – This is found on the top of the foot, which supplies oxygenated blood to foot.
As you can see, the list does not include pulse in your stomach because the artery running down your abdomen isn’t close to the skin, unlike the ones mentioned above. However, this does not necessarily mean that there is a health problem you should be worried about when you can feel your pulse in your stomach.
So when is the presence of pulse in your belly area normal? Actually, it is very much likely for you to feel it when you are a thin person. This is most especially true when you are lying down. Because the aorta is the largest blood vessel you have in your body, averaging 2 cm in diameter, it’s very likely for you to feel its throbbing in your belly when there’s not much fatty tissue sitting on top of it that keeps you from feeling your pulse.
Aside from thin people, older persons may also be able to feel their pulse in their abdomen. You may see if you can actually feel a pulse in your abdomen by lying down and placing 2 to 3 fingers in the midline of your belly, in between the lower edge of your ribs and your belly button.
However, there could be a problem if the pulse in your stomach is really strong, and often accompanied by a feeling that there’s a bulge in there somewhere. It might indicate that you have abdominal aortic aneurysm. The only way to tell whether or not you have it is by seeing your doctor and telling him or her about your concern.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm is the enlargement of the aorta’s lower area, specifically when the outer diameter of the aorta measures over 3 cm. The exact cause of it is yet to be known, but doctors say that smoking, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and vasculitis (infection of the aorta) may be contributing factors.
Smaller aneurysms require regular monitoring to make sure there’s little risk of it rupturing. However, larger aneurysms may require surgical treatment to keep it from rupturing and risking your life.