How Healthy Are We?
Health in its holistic definition is not just the state of being without any physical illness or disease. The World Health Organization defines health in its constitution (2006) as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity". As a matter of fact, holistic well-being is more than what is covered by this definition. Health is a dynamic state of affair. It cannot remain as it should be in a static condition for a long time. It has to be nourished, practised and maintained each and every day.
Health has a range of situations over a scale which needs to be fostered with continued care and with a sense of awareness in mind. Health ranges from a baseline good to well-balanced optimum condition. If it is not cared for regularly, it deteriorates gradually. In order to enjoy a healthful life, we must make efforts to keep up our health condition with frequent healthful activities, such as healthy eating, physical exercise, adequate sleep, stress management etc. At the same time, we have to avoid unhealthful practices such as exposure to health risk factors or situations, such as smoking, not taking adequate sleep, taking excessive stress, using drugs, indulging in unhealthy environment etc.
The adoption of healthful activities and avoidance of unhealthful practices help us keeping away the unwanted ill health consequences. Some factors affecting health are due to individual choices, such as whether to engage in a high-risk behaviour, while others are due to structural causes, such as whether the society is arranged in a way that makes it easier or harder for people to get necessary healthcare services. These include but not limited to the availability of adequate green spaces, safe walking trails, bike paths, hiking tracks, availability of pure water to drink, clean air to inhale, facilities of periodic screening for unpleasant health conditions, especially, cancer screening that is the topic of our focus here.
Still there are factors that remain beyond both individual and societal controls, such as genetic predisposition for cancer, exposure to certain cancer-causing viruses and toxins, or having other chronic diseases. But still there are ways to overcome these apparently static factors, with adequate plan and actions taken early. We are going to discuss these in the following sections.
Is Wellness Different from Health?
The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness as ‘the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health’.
In the sense of holistic health, most wellness models have identified multiple mutually dependent dimensions: physical, mental or emotional, intellectual, social, environmental, occupational or vocational, financial, relational (marital, familial), cultural, spiritual, so and so. While every dimension has an impact on the other dimensions, for enjoying a complete state of health, one must take care of all aspects upon which it depends.
(University of Waterloo, n.d.)
1. Physical Health: Our physical health mostly depends on foods and drinks we consume. As the old saying goes “we are what we eat.” Research has identified that over 50% of all cancers are related to our foods and about 75% of the immune system lies in the gut. So, if we want to improve our natural protection against cancer, we must take care of foods and drinks that we are taking and the associated body system – gastrointestinal tract or gut that deals with these.
Of course, physical health of a person depends on other aspects where the body and mind exposed to. Among these, one must recognize the usefulness of optimum physical activities, adequate rest and sleep, personal hygiene and cleanliness. Besides, stress-free life is a pre-requisite for physical health and here comes the link of physical heath to mental, socioeconomic and other dimensions of health.
Wellness research in the physical dimension has explored other aspects that include the ability and determination to care for one’s physical health, safety, and quality of life by responsible decision making, adequate self-care, and seeking medical assistance when warranted. You should have the ability to know when we are not physically well and when to take appropriate actions. One must recognize how personal behaviours are inherently linked to maintaining an optimum physical health and wellness.
In summary, our physical health and wellness include, but are not limited to:
Regular physical activities or age-specific exercises
Consuming nutritious diets
Drinking adequate potable water
Having adequate healthy sleep that is required for the age
Maintaining effective personal hygiene
Maintaining agreeable intimate relationship
Avoiding harmful habits
Avoiding substances that are detrimental to health
Taking adequate precautions to avoid preventable injuries
Recognizing and responding to ill-heath and any symptom of disease in a scientific manner
Regular physical checkups, particularly cancer screening.
In the next blog, I am going to explore the other dimensions of health and wellness. (Blog#4)