ALBANY: Getting a new message across

Joe Montana was used to getting blindsided on the football field. Getting blindsided in a doctor's office was another matter.

Yet, that's what happened several years ago when a routine checkup led to a troubling discovery the hall of fame quarterback had high blood pressure.

I was surprised," said Montana. "I didn't think I would ever have it. Even when they told me, I still wasn't concerned because there were no symptoms with it. I didn't feel bad. I really at that point of time didn't know what the consequences were."

Once Montana learned more about the consequences " heart disease, stroke and kidney disease " he dealt with his high blood pressure the way he did with opposing defenses: with cool efficiency. He took his medication, he changed his diet and he exercised more.

Montana didn't stop there, though. He teamed up with cardiologist Dr. James Rippe to create a book and a Web site (www.getbpdown.com) to help others dealing with high blood pressure, and the two of them tour the United States to raise awareness. That tour landed last Wednesday in Albany.

"One of the messages we want to get out is if a person like Joe Montana, who played professional sports at the highest level, can have high blood pressure, than anybody can, and the only way you'll know about it is if you get your blood pressure checked," said Rippe.

There are plenty of people like Montana who suffer from high blood pressure " an estimated 72 million in the United States alone. And though Rippe said family history is relevant, it is not the only factor.

"We know that there is a certain amount of clustering of high blood pressure, but it's not a determining factor," said Rippe. "We don't know why some families have more high blood pressure than others, but the sad truth is that in over 90 percent of people who have high blood pressure, we don't know why they have it."

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