Hmm .… the quest for good health. Everyone wants to be healthy and of course so do you. Yet, do you really know what you are after? What is health? Is it the absence of disease? Is it the absence of discomfort? Is it the approving nod and smile from your doctor looking over your latest lab results that have all your numbers in the normal range?
So, what is health?
It is a question I asked many people. The most common answer I get is this one: “You are healthy when you feel good”. It sounds reasonable, yet… it is not true.
Consider this: a few days after a blood work you receive a phone call from your doctor that your cholesterol is up. What a surprise! You did not know that. You’ve been feeling good all along. But now your doctor wants you to use a cholesterol drug. Apparently high cholesterol is not a sign of health. Are you still healthy? If not why haven’t you been feeling unwell? And if you are healthy then why should you be on any drug?
That’s cholesterol testing, but what about mammography, bone density or even blood pressure. There is no way to predict their results unless you actually do the tests.
Coffee and chocolate will perk up most of us and let’s face it.. that’s why we swarm around Starbucks, Baskin Robins, and Godiva chocolatiers. Yet, that mouth-watering sugar fix that makes you feel good for at least half an hour isn’t really a health treatment. If you can judge health by your level of perkiness then you should be healthier with every chocolate chip cookie, beer, and painkiller. Now you know I am talking nonsense.
Are you in good health?
Every one of us here has at least a little bit of health. Zero health equals zero life. This is clear, but trying to find out who is and who is not in good health gets very blurry. Are you healthy when you are on a prescription drug? What about if you are not taking medication? What if you stay away from painkillers, but have terrible belly cramps every month instead? Are you better off if you are on meds that kill the pain of the cramps? Are you well if you are not on drugs but are addicted to tobacco instead? Are you healthy if…..???
One day I asked my 70-year old patient on multiple drugs if he thought he was healthy and I got an answer: “Most of the time yes, sometimes I do not feel so good”. That was rather surprising considering that he needed three medication for blood pressure, two for diabetes, and one for prostate. The fact that he was intensely medicated for his ailments escaped his attention. He FELT well, but was he?None of us wants to be sick, neither was he, so he made himself believe that he is “good for his age”. Apparently lots of his friends were no longer here. He outlived them. He was still around. Was he not right about his health, then?
The illusion of good health
Everyone has an opinion on what good health is, and everyone has a right to believe that one is in good health. Not being in good health is very stressful and worrisome and many people prefer not to go there. Unfortunately this illusion of staying in good health does not erase the fact that very few of us will reach the age of 100 and that most of us will succumb to heart or other ugly diseases prematurely.
The truth is that very few of us are in really good health. And it is not because we don’t care, but because we really do not know what it is. If we knew we would choose our fate with confidence, but not knowing what we should be aspiring to, leaves us vulnerable.
It is very common in our Western society that a seemingly robust person gets surprised by an medical diagnosis. Yet a visit to a doctor should never end up with a surprise, because diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s does not happen overnight. The first signs of moving closer towards a degenerative disease can be detected decades earlier, when health changes from optimal to good, or at least from good to average. Unfortunately very few people understand the difference.
A different look at the state of health
Despite a popular belief health and disease are not just the only two possible body states. Between an optimal body state and an uncomfortable chronic degeneration there are many stops along the way. Health is a continuum.
But gradual decline is difficult to spot. First there are minor discomforts, then symptoms, then after many years, a full disease develops. Only at this point a diagnosis is possible and medical intervention starts. If allowed to progress, chronic disease can eventually lead to a disability. No one wants that.
If you want to stay in truly good health without worries about future medical bills and losing your freedom just remember: health is not the same as the absence of disease. It is not even the absence of ill-health, but the state of optimal functionality and adaptability. Only when your body is fully functional and highly adaptable to the environment you have optimal health and you are at the furthest point from medical surprises.
The concept of optimal functionality and adaptability requires special explanation and will be addressed in detail in later posts, next to the posts on how to spot the first signs of health disruption. This health-building system has been put together by a naturopathic physician after she has completed twenty years of clinical observations, rigorous lab testing and several thousands of patient histories.
Stay tuned as we unfold the details while you learn valuable Health Skills.