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Pills are not the answer

More than half of America’s 60-year-olds — and 65 percent of those over 70 — have high blood pressure, which is defined as a reading of 140/90 or higher on two occasions. Because high blood pressure (also called hypertension) has no noticeable symptoms, many people think they are safe from it. They could not be more wrong.

Untreated, high blood pressure can cause medical problems including stroke, vision problems, kidney failure, heart attack and congestive heart failure. Risk factors include family history of hypertension, race, obesity, stress, diabetes and insufficient potassium, calcium and magnesium in the diet.

Given the potential seriousness of the condition, it may surprise you to know that most physicians do not immediately recommend medication to control high blood pressure. Generally, lifestyle changes, including a low-fat, low-salt diet and increased exercise, are the first choices to lower blood pressure.

This recommendation supports the health of all older adults. Studies have found that although the need for calories decreases with age, the need for many essential vitamins and minerals stays the same — and in some instances, increases — making low-fat, nutrient-rich foods the best choice.

Experts stress that eating healthy food isn’t about guilt and deprivation. It has much more to do with eating well by increasing the quantity and variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, using low-fat dairy foods, and decreasing the amount of desserts, snacks and fat- and salt-laden foods.

Fortunately, eating well has never been easier. The availability of fresh produce, low-fat foods and salt substitutes make it easy to do the right thing and still enjoy fresh, full flavors without feeling guilty or deprived. Here are some healthy recipes that prove low-sodium doesn’t have to mean low-flavor.

Fiesta Tomato Dressing

1 large tomato, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons honey mustard

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt substitute

Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor. Cover and process until very smooth. Serve over salad greens. Makes 1 cup. Nutritional value per 1/4 cup serving: 24 calories, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 1g protein, 5g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 0mg cholesterol, 57mg sodium, 428mg potassium.

Chicken & Bell Pepper Pasta

1/2 pound linguine or fettuccini

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into thin strips

4 medium bell peppers, cut into thin strips (red, green or yellow)

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cups quartered mushrooms

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

1/4 teaspoon salt substitute

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Cook pasta in boiling water using shortest cooking time; drain. Transfer to serving platter; keep warm.

2. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet or pot until very hot. Sauté chicken until browned, about five minutes. Transfer to dish. In same skillet, sauté vegetables for five minutes until vegetables are crisp-tender.

3. Return chicken to skillet. Add basil and salt substitute. Cook until heated through. Serve over pasta. If desired, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Makes four servings.

Nutritional value per serving: 425 calories, 7g fat, 1g saturated fat, 56g carbohydrates, 6g fiber, 33g protein, 63mg cholesterol, 61mg sodium, 763mg potassium.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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