Macau Cardiology Association

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What blood pressure level is considered an emergency?

High blood pressure is a chronic condition and the damage it causes to blood vessels and organs generally occurs over years. However, it is possible for blood pressure to rise quickly and severely enough to be considered a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment at a hospital.

Extremely high blood pressure – anything above 180/110 mm Hg – is called a hypertensive crisis. In addition to extremely high blood pressure, a person having such a crisis may experience one or more of these signs or symptoms:

  • Severe headache
  • Severe anxiety
  • Shortness of breath

The consequences of uncontrolled blood pressure in this range can be severe and include:

  • Stroke
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Memory loss
  • Heart attack
  • Damage to the eyes and kidneys
  • Blood vessel damage
  • Aortic dissection
  • Angina (unstable chest pain)
  • Fluid backup in the lungs
  • Loss of kidney function

A hypertensive crisis can cause blood vessels to become inflamed and potentially leak blood, making it difficult to maintain adequate blood circulation. Inadequate circulation can cause organ damage and failure.

A spike in blood pressure of this magnitude is a medical emergency, and the person experiencing it should be hospitalized immediately. There is no safe duration for blood pressure to remain in this range. Do not wait to see if your pressure comes down on its own. Call 9-1-1 immediately for emergency medical assistance. If you can’t access the emergency medical services (EMS), have someone drive you to the hospital right away. If you’re the one having symptoms, don’t drive yourself, unless you have absolutely no other option.

 

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