Grilled romaine with heart-healthy salad dressing.
Cook's Corner

The Silent Killer: You Can Help Fix This With Proper Diet And Exercise

 If you or someone you know has high blood pressure, there are ways to lower it.

Having high blood pressure means your heart must work harder to pump blood through your body. Too much salt, use of tobacco, caffeine and alcohol can lead to increases in blood pressure. Talk about taking the fun out of everything! Also, stress, diabetes, sleep apnea and kidney disease are other factors that can lead to increases in blood pressure.

This is something you can control to help reduce your blood pressure. But most importantly, TAKE YOUR PRESCRIBED MEDICATIONS! See a doctor. Stroke-level blood pressure can be 180/120 or lower. Unfortunately, this can happen without feeling any symptoms. This is why it is called the “Silent Killer.” 

There are many good foods to consume if you want to be on a heart-healthy diet. Fiber rich foods, antioxidant foods and foods with omega 3 fatty acids are some of the heart-healthy foods to keep in mind.

All that good fried food will kill you, so keep it in moderation. Why? Because cholesterol plaque will cause your arteries to be narrow, and thus your heart must work harder. I had a nephew who died of a heart attack at age 35. He was a big strong guy, a very nice man, hard worker and a family man, but I’m pretty sure his diet was fast food, fried food and junk food. 

 It is difficult. Who can walk away from grandma’s fried chicken and pies? We all grew up with many family dinners and special occasions. With that in mind, it is okay to mess up occasionally and then get back on track.

My secret is I just do not tell anyone I am dieting. Then I avoid all the conversations of “How is the diet going?” So just do your best to eat healthy. 

Heart-healthy breakfast.
Heart-healthy breakfast.

Oatmeal Breakfast

Oats are a fiber-rich food. It contains beta glucan, which promotes healthy gut bacteria. Beta glucan also helps to lower blood glucose. Instead of piling on the brown sugar in your oats, keep it simple and add cinnamon and honey. According “The Magic of Oatmeal,” an April 6, 2011, article on the website The Iron You (, oatmeal raises the levels of free testosterone in your body. This will enhance your body’s ability to build muscle and burn fat.

So, try getting away from all that bacon and sausage, which has high amounts of sodium, and eat a bowl of oatmeal.

Grilled Romaine with Heart-Healthy Salad Dressing 

(See picture at top.) Tired of eating salads all the time? Try grilling a head of romaine lettuce. This is fun to do and gives your salad a whole new kick. Your leafier green salads are a good source of fiber, low in calories and high in vitamins. Store prepared salad dressing can be very high in sodium. Do an internet search for heart-healthy dressing or make this one to your taste and pour over your grilled romaine.

Salad Dressing Ingredients:

2 tablespoons each of:

red wine vinegar

sun-dried tomatoes

balsamic vinegar

lemon juice

honey mustard

For the lettuce:

2 heads of romaine

2 tablespoons olive oil


1/2 cup pre-cooked chicken chunks (without skin)

Feta cheese (optional)


Mix dressing ingredients in a jar and shake. Add more or less of each ingredient to your taste. Prepare grill. Slightly cut bottom stem off of Romaine to keep heads intact for the grill. Cut heads of Romain in half lengthwise. Brush each half with olive oil. Place lettuce on grill and grill each side about 2-3 minutes. Once your lettuce has been grilled, place in bowl and toss with salad dressing. Add toppings.

Garlic herb-crust chicken.
Garlic herb-crust chicken.

Garlic Herb Crust Chicken

Sodium is a chemical in salt. Salt is not good for you if you have high blood pressure. More than 70 percent of the salt we eat is from packaged foods and fast foods. It is always a good idea to eat as cleanly as possible. This means eating foods that are close to their natural state. When preparing meals at home, use less salt and more herbs and powdered seasonings, such as cumin, turmeric, chili powder, cilantro, onion and garlic powder.


4 chicken breasts

2 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. dried oregano

2 Tbsp. butter

No Salt seasoning to taste


Line a sheet pan or 9×13 pan with foil for easy clean-up. Place your chicken in pan. In a small bowl, combine all the spices. Melt butter and brush on top of chicken. Season the chicken with the spices. Cover pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes uncovered.

Heart-healthy no-bake cookies.
Heart-healthy no-bake cookies.

Heart Healthy No-Bake Cookies

This recipe is almost the same as one on the website. The exception is that I used old-fashioned oats and not quick oats. The ingredients and directions credit go to the JoyFood website. I would like to mention that these are much better served frozen. The coconut oil does not set up well, and the cookie will be gooey if left at room temperature. I would like to add this was the best heart-healthy no-bake cookie I have ever had.  Next time I will double the recipe to make more.


1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup coconut oil in solid state

Dash of salt

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 cup oats

1/4 cup shredded coconut


Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Combine peanut butter, honey, salt, vanilla and coconut oil in a saucepan and heat. Stir continuously until melted. Add cocoa powder and mix well. Add coconut and oats. Mix until completely combined.  Drop 1 tablespoon portions of cookie mix onto prepared cookie sheet. Cool in freezer. When the cookies are frozen, place in a covered container and keep frozen until ready to serve.

Mary Ann Kuper is a cook on the ACBL towboat Harold Dodd.

Caption for top photo: Grilled romaine with heart-healthy salad dressing.