Is it normal for a person to at times feel their heart beat in their chest without actually placing their hand on their chest, while at other times not be able to (even though the pulse is strong, regular and consistent in both instances) or is this potentially a symptom of a cardiovascular disease?
Is it normal for a person to at times feel their heart beat in their chest without actually placing their hand on their chest, while at other times not be able to...?
Yes, this is normal.
Normally, people do not feel their heart beating in their chest at rest. It is one of those things similar to breathing - it's happening, but we're not often aware of it (which is good as it might be very distracting otherwise.)
However, an alteration in the steady background of the beating heart is often perceived. Sometimes the alteration is due to increased rate or force of contractions. If so, the sensation of feeling your heart beating (normally under the circumstances) is called physiological palpitations (i.e. normal.) If they are a result of an "abnormal" rate or rhythm, the phenomenon is known as "palpitations".
In normal resting conditions, the activity of the heart is generally not perceived by the individual. However, during or immediately after intense physical activity or emotional stress, it may be quite normal to become aware of one's own heartbeat for brief periods; these sensations are regarded as physiological palpitations, in that they represent the normal or expected response to a certain challenge or activity leading to an increase in the frequency and strength of the contraction of the heart. Outside of such situations, instead, palpitations are perceived as abnormal.2
The sensory mechanisms responsible for palpitation are unknown.1
What we do know, though, is that if the heart beats faster or more forcefully, we do feel this, both in our chest, and in our necks, as exemplified in the expression, "my heart rose into my throat." We have baroreceptors in major blood vessels in our neck; when more blood is pushed into our arteries by a forceful beat, there is an awareness of increased pressure.
Palpitations are a symptom defined as awareness of the heartbeat and are described by patients as a disagreeable sensation of pulsation or movement in the chest and/or adjacent areas.2
A more forceful contraction means more blood is pumped in that heart cycle. This can happen if suddenly stressed (e.g. you're speeding and you see a police car pull into your lane behind you); the adrenaline increases both the rate and the force of your heartbeat.
Likewise, when you have a premature ventricular contraction, or PVC. The first beat is early; this allows the next cycle to have a longer "filling time", and the resultant more forceful contraction will be felt. Medically speaking:
In cases of isolated extrasystoles, the augmented post-extrasystolic beat may be felt in place of, or in addition to, the premature beat.
If you have an irregular heartbeat - the weaker ones will not be felt, but the more forceful ones will. This often is perceived as a fluttering in the chest.
Finally, some people are just more sensitive to their heart beat. This also occurs in hypervigilant states.
What you're describing is known as Palpitations.
Palpitations are feelings or sensations that your heart is pounding or racing. They can be felt in your chest, throat, or neck.
Palpitations are not serious most of the time. Sensations representing an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) may be more serious.
The following conditions make you more likely to have an abnormal heart rhythm:
- Known heart disease at the time the palpitations begin
- Significant risk factors for heart disease
- An abnormal heart valve
- An electrolyte abnormality in your blood
Causes Anxiety, stress, panic attack, or fear, caffeine intake, nicotine intake, cocaine or other illegal drugs. However, some palpitations are due to an abnormal heart rhythm.
When to call a doctor If you have never had heart palpitations before, see your health care provider.
Call 911 or your local emergency number if you have:
- Loss of alertness (consciousness)
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Unusual sweating,
- Dizziness or light-headedness