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One of the leading causes of preventable death is officially under attack at the Western Montana Clinic.

High blood pressure is among the top three killers of Americans, behind smoking and ahead of deaths related to alcohol consumption, said Dr. Tom Roberts, president of the Western Montana Clinic.

The clinic has joined more than 120 medical groups and health systems, including prestigious institutions such as the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic, to thwart the condition in a national campaign called “Measure Up Pressure Down.”

“This is a quality improvement project that starts now and will take place over the next few years,” Roberts said.

The goal is to improve the detection and control of high blood pressure, and to prevent the condition.

“Even something that seems as simple as controlling high blood pressure is in fact a complex task. Understanding this and creating the best systems to achieve excellent results for everyone is our goal,” Roberts said.

Becoming more proactive in detecting the condition and helping patients improve their own management of it are among the first steps the clinic is taking to push back against high blood pressure.

“Proactive means not only when patients come in to see us, but also having clinic staff reach out to them,” Roberts said.

“We will be contacting people who are taking meds, making sure they get seen, making sure that high blood pressure is measured accurately, that patients have appropriate medication, and we will be proactive in getting them back into the office on a regular basis.”

Having recently participated in an educational workshop on measuring blood pressure, Roberts, who has been a physician for nearly 40 years, said it was a wake-up call.

“We have all been trained differently, and some of us a long time ago,” Roberts said. “I’m pretty convinced I knew how to do it, but when I sat down and went through the learning experience, I learned I could do it better.

“We want to get everyone on the same page, so we can document blood pressure accurately and consistently. The next step is to make sure the people we are taking care of, that we pay attention to the details and make sure they are taking medicine and modifying their activities, reducing their salt intake and their stress.

“I know high blood pressure is called the ‘silent killer’ – and there’s a reason for it. It’s easy to ignore and not be consistent with the treatment.

“We are going to try and turn that around.”

Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at

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