By Christopher Klose
"I never thought I had a problem," recalls Cheryl Fells, 53, who was diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension) during a routine physical exam in 2003. As is the case for so many millions of Americans, there was no warning sign. "How long had I been walking around with it?" she wonders.
A cardiologist put her on two medications to lower her pressure, and she began to monitor her progress. "I took a hard look at my lifestyle, especially my diet and exercise, she says." She cut out potato chips—"Sodium is huge!"—began to eat less fried foods, drink more water, and cook at home to control the amount of salt in her diet.
Eventually, her blood pressure returned to normal. With her doctor's agreement, she ceased taking her medications in 2006 and began relying solely on diet and exercise to maintain her pressure within normal range. Fortunately, it has worked.
"Knowing that high blood pressure can lead to diabetes and other serious complications scared me," she admits. "Managing it takes planning, but when you see your numbers, it's worth the effort."
Fells, who directs the Grants Information Office of the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Md., exercises up to 90 minutes at least four times a week. This includes 30 minutes of cardiovascular work on a treadmill, 15 minutes of stationary biking, 15 minutes on the elliptical machine, and 20 to 30 minutes of free-weight lifting.
As for diet, she eats fresh, whole foods—"nothing packaged!"—especially green, leafy vegetables, high-fiber fruits (pears, apples, grapes, blueberries), and chicken, turkey, lean ground pork, lamb and veal, and fish. And she reads food labels very closely to understand what she's eating.
"You can enjoy a good, healthy life as long as you have the information you need to make better decisions," she says.
- Brown turkey in olive oil in a large pot, drain excess liquid.
- Add onion, green and red peppers – stir until tender
- Add kidney beans, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce
- Mix in the garlic and spices. Bring to a boil.
- Lower heat and cook for 15-20 minutes
- Remove from heat and serve
Cheryl Fells' Turkey Chili
1 pound of lean ground turkey
1 can of diced tomatoes (16 oz)
1 can of tomato sauce (16 oz)
1 can of red kidney beans (16 oz) – rinse and drain
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. oregano
Pepper to taste
Note: This recipe may also be served over brown rice.