With the diagnosis of high blood pressure (hypertension), the physician will now counsel the individual on their options – they have three. Option 1 is change to a healthy lifestyle and see if controls the hypertension. Option 2 is taking blood pressure medication and if that does not work, add more since sometimes it may take more than one type of medication to control the blood pressure. Option 3 is a combination of Option 1 and 2.

If an individual is not accredited to living a healthy lifestyle, they may be overwhelmed with the entire process and quit before seeing any good results like preventing or controlling their high blood pressure. The first step in making a lifestyle change, especially when it comes to food, is to develop and install a new way of thinking about buying food, preparing food and eating the food. The way to do this is through motivation and that can be done through the process of finding out what thoughts are strong enough to keep an individual on their plan.

Many people find the “carrot” and the “stick” technique helpful to keeping themselves motivated.

The Carrot
The carrot elicits a more pleasurable response to making a change. For instance, the change to healthy eating using the “carrot” technique would be to look at the positive effects: like slimming down (looking good), having more energy to take part in activities (feeling great), taking part in social activities or hobbies (developing new interests). When a person looks at the positive effects of eating healthy, they may attach strong emotions to certain aspects of this change such as “looking good” or “feeling great” and as a result are more apt to stick with the plan.

The Stick
The stick is the opposite of the carrot, it will motivate an individual, but out of fear. In this instance, it would be fear of having a heart attack (pain) and dying (leaving loved ones alone), or angina (pain). Fear of having a stroke (suffering, being disabled) and not being able to speak or walk (having to be physically taken care of by others) feeling isolated from family and friends. Fear of developing kidney problems (pain and diminished quality of life) or blindness (sadness, fear, isolation, frustration). These are only a few of the negative emotions attached to sickness and disease.

Is it the “carrot” or the “stick” that will keep a person on their program? Maybe it will be a combination of both, but whichever it is, the important thing is to make the connection very strong so when there is a temptation to give up, the carrot and stick can keep the change on track.

The diet is only one aspect of the lifestyle change and can be a little overwhelming unless broken down into smaller steps. Take favorite recipes and make small changes using low fat or nonfat products, This may require a lot of experimentation until you get it right, but when you finally have the recipe tasting up to your standards, put it in a new recipe box. Changing one recipe at a time will be a good visual motivation as you begin to see the new recipe box filling-up with your healthy recipes. The following tips are helpful in making these changes.

Saturated Fats
Saturated fats are considered unhealthy and generally come from animals. When changing a recipe, use skinless poultry and lean meats.

Whole-milk needs to be replaced with skim milk. The idea that skim milk is just watered down whole milk is absolutely false. Skim milk has the fat removed and calcium and vitamins added back. Other whole-milk dairy products such as cheese, butter, ice cream and cream should be eliminated and / or substituted with low fat or nonfat alternative products at the supermarket.

Processed foods such as crackers, baked goods and snack foods generally use palm kernel, palm oil, or coconut oil which contains saturated fat. If it is unrealistic to totally cut them out, then just cut back.

When using oils, the best choices are extra virgin olive oil, canola and safflower oil and soft or liquid margarine. Remember, if you are trying to lose weight, all fats good or bad have the same amount of calories so it may be necessary to cut back on these products also.

Sodium / Salt
When buying canned foods choose foods labeled low sodium, very low sodium, reduced sodium, unsalted, sodium free or light sodium. For all other canned vegetables, rinse one or two before using to remove some of the sodium. Also, cured, smoked, processed pork, poultry and beef have high levels of sodium so limit or eliminate these products. Individuals who consume 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day have the best results when it comes to lowering high blood pressure. There are many herb and spice combinations available at most supermarkets that can be used instead of salt for flavoring meats and vegetables.

Make it a habit to scan labels to check for calories, fats and sodium. After awhile, checking labels will become second nature and accomplished very quickly. Most individuals do not like change; however, keep in mind the output if change does not take place.