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Joe Montana's Keeps Blood Pressure Low With Family
joe montana family photo
Joe and Jennifer Montana involve their whole family in the effort to stick to healthy eating habits

Joe Montana and his wife, Jennifer, an actress, model and mother of their four children (ages 19, 18, 15 and 12), have been crisscrossing the country with their educational presentation "Make Managing Blood Pressure a Family Affair." According to Montana, it took medical intervention, lifestyle changes and the support and encouragement of his family to pull him through.

It's safe to say that football legend Joe Montana is no ordinary Joe. Known affectionately as The Comeback Kid, this four-time Super Bowl champion is considered by many to be the greatest clutch performer in NFL history.

Although Montana could almost single-handedly win on the field, today it's taken a team to help him face his latest, and maybe greatest, challenge: high blood pressure.

That's why Montana and his wife, Jennifer, an actress, model and mother of their four children (ages 19, 18, 15 and 12), have been crisscrossing the country with their educational presentation "Make Managing Blood Pressure a Family Affair." According to Montana, it took medical intervention, lifestyle changes and the support and encouragement of his family to pull him through.

"For most people the first symptom is a heart attack or a stroke," says James M. Rippe, M.D., the Harvard-trained cardiologist, fitness expert and author who has teamed with the Montanas to create an on going public education program called "BP Success Zone."

Montana, who had no symptoms when his severe high blood pressure was diagnosed in 2002, says he's a living example of why they call hypertension the silent killer.

"If it wasn't for Jennifer insisting that I get my physical I would never have known," says Montana, who was also found to have a partially blocked artery and high cholesterol.

How Bad Is It?
Beyond the gloomy predictions of shorter life spans, kids living with a weight problem today already face significant troubles, says Walt Larimore, M.D., co-author of SuperSized Kids.
Obese children suffer from serious medical problems that, until recently, occurred only in adults - high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, liver damage and kidney disease. They're at greater risk of asthma, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and metabolic syndrome. And overweight teens have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight adults.
"Obesity significantly impairs quality of life right now - in the present," Larimore says. "Doctors like me are seeing kids with problems that in the past were only seen in older adults. Research shows severely obese children and adolescents have a similar quality of life to that of pediatric cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy."
- Sandra Whitehea

Like many wives and mothers, Jennifer took on the role of health-care gatekeeper and enlisted her children's help in convincing her husband to make dietary and exercise changes. It wasn't easy.

"The torture they put me through was worse than anything I went through in 16 years in the NFL," Montana says with a grin. "I had horrendous eating habits," he admits. "I loved fried chicken and potato chips and everything else that wasn't good for me."

The kids removed the saltshaker from the table and Jennifer cut back super-sized portions to moderation. Exercise became a way to bring the family together. These changes were not only good for Montana they were good for the entire family.

"Parents need to know that the roots of heart disease are in childhood," says Rippe.

Experts agree that it's critical for children to eat a healthy diet, get enough exercise andmaintain a healthy weight. Rippe says that obesity is directly linked to many health problems including heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer and gall bladder disease, to name but a few. According to Rippe, statistics reveal that 90 percent of all people will develop high blood pressure in their lifetime. Few parents want that figure to include their children.

Jennifer Montana knows it isn't always easy to change family habits.

"I suggest starting by making small changes and then building on those successes," she explains. Keeping soft drinks and junk food out of the house is a good first step, she says, "but it's important to involve the whole family and stay committed."

The Montanas love to cook and you can find their kid-friendly recipes like "Comeback Kid Coleslaw," "Half-Time Meatball Hoagie" and "Overtime Oatmeal Cookies" on www.GETBPDOWN.com.

In some ways Montana admits he is a regular Joe. "When I was diagnosed I was as shocked as anyone could be. Athlete or not, this disease can affect anyone."

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