/ Jan - Feb 2006 / The Joe Montana Interview
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An Interview with Joe Montana
Keeping Joe Cool
GARY BARG: Tell me about the BP
Success Zone Campaign.
DR. JAMES RIPPE:
Itís a public education campaign. Joe and I have been crisscrossing
the country for now two and a half years, and weíve been to 30
cities. We are trying to move the needle to raise awareness about
the dangers of high blood pressure and get more peopleís high blood
pressure into the Blood Pressure Success Zone. The great thing
about having Joe as a partner is that people say, ďHe is a
relatively young athlete with high blood pressureÖmaybe I could have
it too.Ē We are trying to get people in a dialog with their doctor.
Thatís what this campaign is all about. The sad truth here is that
of the 90% of the people who have high blood pressure, we donít know
the cause. We know there are associations between being overweight
and smoking cigarettes and being inactive. There is a hereditary
component too. Having said that, when you go across the board and
talk about the causes of hypertension, 90% are of unknown origin.
GARY BARG: So, depending on
your situation, it could be genetics, it could be dieting, it could
be exerciseówe just donít know.
DR. JAMES RIPPE: We just know
if you have hypertension and you are overweight, are sedentary,
smoke cigarettes, itís dangerous. We know if we can get you to stop
smoking, be active and lose weight, then youíll get tremendous
benefits for your blood pressure and lower your risk for heart
disease. One of the reasons Joe Montana is such a wonderful
spokesperson for this campaign is he represents the absolutely
classic case. He never smoked, was always fit, and was never
overweight. There was a little heredity, but heís like the 90% of
people in that he just got it. One out of every three adults has it
(65 million). There is a 10% increase in problems per decade. By the
time you are 40, there is a 40% chance, by the time you are 50,
there is a 50% chance of getting hypertension. So Joe is not in an
unusual situation, where he is diagnosed with hypertension seemingly
out of the blue.
GARY BARG: Joe, since you
didnít have any symptoms, how did you find out that you had high
JOE MONTANA: I went for a
physical. I was doing my husbandly duty and was just trying to get
in and out of the doctorís office so I could check that box for the
year. I was perfectly fine. I went in there with the expectation Iíd
go through the motions and get out of there. When she told me my
blood pressure was high, she sent me directly to a cardiologist, so
I did not end up getting very far after all.
GARY BARG: What was your blood
JOE MONTANA: It was over 140
over 90. That was way up from the year before.
GARY BARG: What did they say
JOE MONTANA: I have no idea.
But it was probably due to my cutting back on exercise when I was on
the team. Iím sure my diet did not help. I was eating foods like
steak and fried chicken. I did have a family history on top of it.
I did not think that would affect me even though I knew of my family
history. My grandfather passed away when he was 54 from heart
disease. So it could have been a combination of a lot of things.
GARY BARG: Are you on
JOE MONTANA: Yes. Actually the
first medication they gave me did not work. Now I am on a
combination of medications. But thatís what it took to get mine
under control. The key to the program is to consult with your
doctor, to get proper exercise with your diet, and also make sure
you are on the right medication. Just because itís right with me,
doesnít mean itís right with everyone else.
GARY BARG: Do you still have to
watch what you eat even though you are on medications?
JOE MONTANA: Yes, one of the
things that I have found is that I was eating a typical American
diet where you eat a lot of food that is not good for you. I was
eating so much of itóall in one sitting. I just had to have that 20
ounce Porterhouse steak or filet. But then, I started by making
moderate changes; cutting back on portion size was the easiest way
to make changes in my diet. In the past, I would rarely order fish
in restaurants; now I find a lot of fish that I like. But it all
started by cutting back on things like steak and fried chicken.
Instead of ordering the fried chicken, you can order the grilled
chicken. You find that your taste buds will change eventually. I
still have the fried chicken on occasion, but I wonít eat that super
size of chips. Now, I can just have a few, and Iím O.K.
GARY BARG: What exactly is the
Blood Pressure Success Zone?
JOE MONTANA: The success zone
is when your blood pressure is between 139 over 89 or below 120 over
80. So anything below that 139 over 89 is the goal you want to
GARY BARG: Is that the blood
pressure reading that everybody should try to reach and maintain?
DR. JAMES RIPPE: I think that
the first and foremost thing is that you canít treat it if you donít
know what it is. We in the caregiving business tend to not be good
about caregiving for ourselves. We need to recognize that this
happens to one out of every three of us. In our adult lives, 90% of
us will get high blood pressure. This is not some isolated deal. We
have to make sure that while we are caring for other people, we have
to care for ourselves. Get your blood pressure taken. Thatís number
oneóand know what that number is. We have very good medicines now.
The vast majority of people that have hypertension, meaning having
blood pressure over 140/90, are going to require medication. In
addition to that, try to be disciplined about keeping your weight
down, try not smoking cigarettes, engage in regular physical
activity, pay attention to having fruits and vegetables and whole
grains, and less processed foods because there is salt in them. On
our web site, Joe and I have a lot of recipes, and tips on how
people can improve their nutrition. We try to be helpful.
Realistically, for most health care professionals and caregivers, if
you have hypertension, itís going to mean a combination of medicine
and lifestyle changes. If you are in this huge category of
pre-hypertension (120-139 over 80-89), you need more physical
activity, to lose weight if you are overweight, and improve your
nutrition. You probably do not need to be on medicine. Thatís the
time that the yellow flag should go up (if your blood pressure is
135 over 85).
GARY BARG: Thatís really a great
point because people think, ďIím under that rangeóI can do anything
I want.Ē So at least it gives them a yellow flag.
DR. JAMES RIPPE: The reason it
is called pre-hypertension is that those people are most likely to
What you are saying
is not only that you have to pay attention to your loved oneís care,
but you have to pay attention to yourself and once you realize you
are at risk for having high blood pressure, you have to moderate it.
Yes. You have to
stay on top of it and find the right medicine and continually
monitor it. I do it once or twice a week. My kids like doing it.
They like playing with the machine.
GARY BARG: Joe, you have really
gotten your family involved in caring for you.
JOE MONTANA: Theyíve been
great. They remove the salt shaker from my side of the table. My
boys are at that age when they eat anything. So as I order that
cheeseburger, they say you really donít want that cheeseburger so
Iíll eat it for you. And my wifeís always on me to take my meds,
especially when I am on the road. We talk every night and she will
always ask if I have taken my medicine. Theyíve been a big help.
Getting there is hard enough. Staying there is another issue.
GARY BARG: What advice do you
have for family caregivers?
JOE MONTANA: You have to
eventually remember to take care of number one. If you do that,
youíll be able to take care of someone else. People look at it the
other way. They are so busy taking care of someone else they end up
losing sight of themselves.