Tackling Hypertension, Super Bowl Style -- Joe Montana & James Rippe, MD -- 1/22/2004

By Joe Montana
WebMD Live Events Transcript

The Super Bowl makes any fan's heart race, but if you have hypertension, those game day eats can send your blood pressure rising, too. Football legend Joe Montana knows how the big game feels and how it feels to have high blood pressure. He joined us, along with cardiologist James Rippe, MD, to offer lifestyle tips as well as recipes for heart-healthy eating at your Super Bowl party or any time.

The opinions expressed herein are the guest's alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Dr. Rippe, how much of a problem is hypertension these days?

Rippe: Hypertension is extremely prevalent. It is the leading cause of outpatient visits to physicians in the United States. Over 58 million adults have high blood pressure in our country.

Moderator: What happens if left untreated?

Rippe: The reason we treat hypertension is to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. A major focus of the campaign that Joe Montana and I are engaged in, which is called "Take the Pressure Off with Better Blood Pressure Control," is to get every person to talk to their doctor about blood pressure, and thereby get better treatment if they need it, and lower their risk of heart disease and stroke.

Moderator: Joe, you were a professional athlete. You should have been in peak condition. What is your hypertension story?

Montana: I was just on the way to a yearly physical and found out from my doctor that I had high blood pressure and was sent to the cardiologist. I was like a lot of Americans who was then treated with medication but still wasn't controlling my blood pressure to the new norm, 120/80. I started on another medication that is a combination of two medicines, one of which I was taking prior, and it subsequently lowered it. Along with that, I increased my exercise and changed my eating habits.

Moderator: How old were you when you were diagnosed?

Montana: 46.

Rippe: The prevalence of high blood pressure increases 10% per decade over the age of 30. So by the time you're in your 40s, there's about a 30% prevalence of hypertension; in your 50s the prevalence rises to 40 to 50%; and by the time a person in our country is over 60 they have a greater than 60% chance of having high blood pressure. So Joe's case is not uncommon.

Member question: My doctor says that my blood pressure is creeping up and I should get more exercise. How does exercise affect blood pressure? If she had said to calm down I would have understood.

Rippe: Many studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise, such as walking or jogging, significantly lowers blood pressure. In addition, exercise is very important for weight control, which further lowers blood pressure. So your doctor is absolutely correct in advising you to get more physical activity.

We have lots of tips about how to get more physical activity in your daily life in our web site that Joe and I created, called takethepressureoff.com.

Moderator: Joe, what do you do? What is your workout?

Montana: Right now it consists of six days of cardiovascular. I try to get anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour and will live with 30 if I'm running late. But also I have a three-day lifting schedule. So I will do two, three-day schedules back-to-back and then take a day off.

Member question: I know you must have a busy lifestyle, Joe. How do you manage to do all the things you need to do to keep your blood pressure under control while traveling, etc?

Montana: Obviously I take my medicine with me. I also try to make sure the hotel I'm in has at least some type of cardiovascular machines, preferably at least a small gym, also.

Member question: Is it really necessary to reduce or eliminate salt from my diet to bring my blood pressure down? Without salt, food tastes bland.

Rippe: Absolutely. Human beings are born with a taste for salt. We eat far too much salt in our diet and there is a very strong association between salt consumption and high blood pressure.

Food can taste wonderful without being salty. To illustrate this, we have posted 15 to 20 recipes on the takethepressureoff.com web site to use in conjunction with a Super Bowl party. All of these recipes are either very low salt or no salt and low fat, yet they taste delicious. If you think that low- or no-salt food tastes bland, you should try some of these recipes. You'll be very pleasantly surprised.

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