How High Can Blood Pressure Go?

Table of Contents (click to expand)

If one’s systolic pressure exceeds 180 or diastolic pressure crosses 100, it is a stage that requires immediate medical attention.

If you have experienced high blood pressure, you might wonder what the maximum limit of blood pressure is.

Blood pressure (BP) is the force on the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. This makes blood pressure an indication of how much force or effort the heart must put into pumping blood.

Blood pressure is one of the four vital signs; the others are respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, and body temperature, which indicate the vital functions of the body.

Your blood pressure elevates (medically called hypertension) when the force is excessive.

Doctor measuring blood pressure. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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Dual Scale Of Blood Pressure (BP) Measurement: Systolic And Diastolic

Blood pressure is usually measured using a device called a sphygmomanometer. This machine is wrapped around the person’s upper arm to measure blood pressure.

Sphygmomanometer: an instrument to measure blood pressure (BP) (Photo Credit: Pixabay)

The ideal blood pressure range is below 120/80 mmHg. The two values here, 120 and 80, represent the cycle of a heartbeat. The first value is the systolic blood pressure, while the value after the slash ‘/’ symbol is the diastolic blood pressure.

  • Systolic blood pressure: This is the pressure when the heart pumps blood out of the heart and circulates it to various organs in the body.
  • Diastolic blood pressure: This is the period during which the heart opens its chamber to fill with blood.

To simplify things a little, consider systolic pressure as the maximum pressure exerted on the artery walls and think of diastolic pressure as the minimum pressure exerted on the walls of the arteries.

In general, systolic blood pressure receives more medical attention. It is also an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease in older people. It is widely observed that systolic blood pressure increases with age due to the increased stiffness of large arteries and plaque formation in the blood vessels.

Also Read: Why Does Blood Pressure Have Two Values?

Blood Pressure Categories

Blood pressure can be classified into four categories:

  • Normal: A systolic pressure reading between 90-120 mmHg and a diastolic pressure reading between 60-80 mmHg is considered normal.
  • Stage one: A systolic pressure reading between 120-140 and a diastolic pressure reading between 80-90 is considered a slightly elevated blood pressure level.
  • High blood pressure: A systolic pressure reading between 140-180 mmHg and a diastolic pressure reading between 90-100 mmHg is considered a high blood pressure condition.
  • Hypertensive crisis: If one’s systolic pressure exceeds 180 mmHg or diastolic pressure crosses 100, it is a stage that requires immediate medical attention.

Feng He and Graham MacGregor of St. George’s University of London suggest in their 2007 journal article that the idea of normal blood pressure is flawed as they explain that the Yamomamo Indian tribespeople do not show an increase in blood pressure or cholesterol as they age. The researchers suggest that normal blood pressure should be less than 110/70 mmHg.

Also Read: How Exactly Is The Blood Pressure Meter Used To Determine Blood Pressure?

Highest Blood Pressure

Anything above 180 mmHg implies a critical medical condition. If BP exceeds 180, there is a risk of stroke, heart failure, or kidney failure, all of which can lead to death. Now, as the title of this article asked, what is the maximum range of blood pressure that a body can withstand before leading to death?

high blood pressure
Possible health complications due to high blood pressure.

A study published in 1995 recorded a maximum blood pressure of 370/360 mmHg. The doctors involved in the study recorded the blood pressure of 10 male athletes. Each athlete performed double-leg press sets at 85% and 100% of maximum capacity, once with a closed glottis Valsalva (a forceful attempted exhalation against the closed airway) and then with slow exhalations.

Although this study provides recorded evidence of the highest blood pressure, this was carried out especially in athletes after extremely strenuous physical activity with forceful breathing.

Blood pressure often rises during exercise or stressful situations when the flight-or-fight response is active. Under normal circumstances, blood pressure approaching 300 is deadly.

Exercise can help lower blood pressure for those who have high blood pressure. Exercise strengthens the heart, and stronger heart muscles can push more blood through the arteries with less effort.

Giraffe – Animal With The Highest Blood Pressure

We have talked a lot about blood pressure and its extreme limits in humans, but what about other animals, especially mammals?

Well, giraffes have earned the title of having the highest blood pressure when it comes to terrestrial mammals. Under normal conditions, systolic blood pressure in giraffes is reportedly 300 mm Hg, along with systolic pressure of about 200 mm Hg. A giraffe’s blood pressure is higher than in humans because its bulky heart (weighing 25 pounds!) has to pump blood up its 7-foot-long neck and to its head.

Giraffes make rapid head movements to eat fodder and intimidate their predators. If their blood pressure drops, they can get dizzy and even lose consciousness.

Giraffes don’t die or even faint from high blood pressure due to several adaptations to their blood vessels as well as a tight wrap of connective tissue around their legs, which prevents their blood from pooling in their legs.

Finally, all I can say is that optimum blood pressure is essential to life. If a person dies of “shock,” a fatal drop in blood pressure is the main culprit. This is because the drop in blood pressure means insufficient blood flow to vital organs such as the brain and kidneys. Likewise, when it exceeds dangerous levels, blood pressure can lead to the failure of these vital organs – and the death of a person. Although we now know that some humans can survive a BP as high as 300, you must see a doctor immediately if your BP crosses the 180 mark to avoid any further complications.

Last Updated By: Salama Yusuf

References (click to expand)
  1. Narloch, J. A., & Brandstater, M. E. (1995, May). Influence of breathing technique on arterial blood pressure during heavy weight lifting. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Elsevier BV.
  2. Health Threats from High Blood Pressure.
  3. Aalkjær, C., & Wang, T. (2021, February 10). The Remarkable Cardiovascular System of Giraffes. Annual Review of Physiology. Annual Reviews.
  4. He, F. J., & MacGregor, G. A. (2007, May 1). Blood pressure is the most important cause of death and disability in the world. European Heart Journal Supplements. Oxford University Press (OUP).
  5. Facts About Hypertension - High Blood Pressure.
About the Author

Hussain Kanchwala is an Electronic Engineer from University of Mumbai. He is a tech aficionado who loves to explicate on wide range of subjects from applied and interdisciplinary sciences like Engineering, Technology, FinTech, Pharmacy, Psychology and Economics.

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