Title: What Is Good Health
Author: Loring A. Windblad
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What Is Good Health
by Loring A. Windblad

There is no universally agreed definition of health. Its meaning
has changed through the ages and in different cultures. The term
derives from the Anglo-Saxon word "haelth," meaning safe, sound
or whole. In medieval times "haelthing" meant "sharing a few
drinks with one's friends," having previously meant "hello" and
"holiness." In recent decades, health has been taken to mean "the
absence of disease." The term "disease" generally refers to a
diagnosable physical abnormality while "illness" means the
personal experience of sickness, or the perceived suffering due
to a disease.

Changing views of health

Since the mid-1900s, medical practice has been dominated by a
biomedical model that focuses more on curing than preventing
illness, dividing diseases into categories -- for example,
targeting a "cirrhotic liver" or "ischemic heart" for treatment.
This method tends to separate physical from psychological or
emotional problems, which are sometimes dismissed as "all in the
head," not meriting medical attention. However, views of health
are undergoing radical changes. The absence-of-disease concept is
being supplanted by an image of "well being for body, spirit and
mind." The emerging bio-psychosocial model regards mind and body
as an intertwined unit and suggests that people be treated as
whole persons, taking into account economic, social and
psychological factors.

In 1948, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health as a
"state of complete physical, mental and social well being,
encompassing the ability to achieve full potential, deal with
crises and meet environmental challenges." In other words, health
-- or wellness, to use a trendy term -- is the capacity to
undertake physical effort, to live within one's own potential and
carry out tasks with vigour and alertness, leaving enough energy
for unforeseen emergencies. The more recent Ottawa Charter for
Health Promotion goes further, suggesting as fundamentals for
health: "peace, shelter, education, food, income, a stable
ecosystem, sustainable resources, social justice and equity."
For example, people can't easily stay healthy if they're starving,
if the air is polluted or during wartime.

Today's key buzz words are "disease prevention" and "health
promotion", rather than trying to "treat the symptoms of
illnesses" (as is practiced by most medical practitioners
nowadays) that are largely preventable. Unfortunately, despite
lip service, prevention is often a hard sell as it takes both
personal and community action. Yet studies show that even a few
words of advice from health professionals can often help to
prevent disease by motivating people to modify their lifestyle.

Many of us are the "worried well"

Although North Americans have an increasing life expectancy, many
worry unduly about health. As U.S. physician Dr. Arthur Barsky
writes in his book Worried Sick: "Our sense of physical well
being has not kept pace with improvements in our collective
health status...there is a pervasive atmosphere of dis-ease."
Many feel constantly "out of sorts" -- with vague undiagnosable
ailments -- worriedly scrutinizing everyday actions for their
health effects. For example, foods may be dubbed "good"
(life-prolonging) or "bad" (health-harming) -- instead of being
regarded as enjoyable nourishment. Many are confused, even
stressed, by trying to keep up with the latest medical
pronouncements -- eat margarine instead of butter (or not); drink
red wine (one glass or two?); take antioxidants -- vitamins C
and E (or don't); shun coffee, drink decaff (or what?).

The main determinants of good health

Biology - the genetic make-up (genes inherited from mother and

Lifestyle habits - such as a nutritious low-fat diet; enough
exercise; sufficient, sound sleep; avoiding misuse of tobacco,
alcohol and other drugs; motor-vehicle and traffic safety;
healthy (safer) sexual practices; and stress-reduction.

Emotional balance - good self-esteem, feeling "in control" and
able to forge intimate relationships.

Economic and social well being - sufficient income for food and
shelter; supportive networks (family, friends, colleagues).

A health-promoting environment - e.g., not excessively polluted,
clean air and water, adequate sewage disposal.

Access to adequate medical care when needed.

Measuring health

Since the WHO definition of health came out, many have tried to
measure its components, which isn't easy. By definition, people
in "good health" have no diagnosable diseases, no significant
symptoms of "dis-ease" (un-wellness), feel "in control" of their
lives, are energetic, satisfied with their social, sexual,
occupational and personal existence. But even those with
diagnosable diseases such as colitis or diabetes, may also feel
well most of the time. Or older people with osteoporosis or
atherosclerosis may consider themselves "in excellent health for
their age."

Take as a further example a man who inherited a polycystic kidney
disease that destroyed both kidneys by midlife. Even though he
requires thrice-weekly dialysis (after two failed kidney
transplants), he nonetheless enjoys a "healthy existence" in
which he swims three times a week, walks to work and leads an
active professional life. Similarly, a bank employee considers
herself "healthy" even though she lost one breast to cancer 15
years ago, and suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome (pinched wrist
nerve), for which she wears a splint at night. In contrast, we
all know people with no physical disorders who complain about
every little ache or transient pain.

Just being fit isn't enough!

In search of good health and longevity, many North Americans
devote endless time and effort to fitness. They conscientiously
jog, do aerobics, spend time on exercise bicycles, restrict
cholesterol intake, avoid aluminum cookware and get medical
checkups. Beyond its health benefits, some even view fitness as a
way to ennoble the soul, sometimes neglecting family and friends
in the effort. Fitness may become an end in itself rather than a
way to enhance personal and professional life. Yet the Ottawa
Charter specifically states that "health is a means rather than
an end in itself -- not the object of living."

As one University of Toronto expert puts it, "just being fit
isn't it!" Although physical fitness -- muscular strength and
flexibility -- is a prerequisite for well being, fitness alone
does not guarantee good health. Being physically fit when
mentally unbalanced, "stressed out," socially isolated or
emotionally disturbed does not add up to good health. Obsessive
fitness addicts may consider the slightest tinge of un-wellness a
slur on their character, making them feel guilty. Yet this kind
of "blame the victim" mentality is unhealthy. It is absurd to
expect that all illness can be avoided simply by one's own

The meaning and definition of "good health" has changed through
the ages. Perhaps the best method of "knowing your health status"
is being acutely aware of your own body, its functions and
functional aberrations. So what am I talking about here?

I'm referring particularly to

- how you feel
- how often you have a bowel movement
- how often you urinate
- how often you feel bloated or gassy after eating
- what foods trigger your bloated or gassy feeling
- what hurts
- is that hurt "chronic" or "new"

Light-headedness could be a symptom of high blood pressure. Pain
in a new and unexpected place could be a sign of a bruise, muscle
strain, unknown injury, or an unknown infection of some kind.
Shingles or easy bruising could be a sign of a lack of vitamin C
in your diet. Many other little things about you and your body
could be early indications of injury or disease. So...how aware
are you of what your body is telling you every day?

My body type is literally grossly obese. I know I am "at risk"
for many illnesses and for many injuries simply because of my
body type. I am about 100 lbs overweight and it began when I was
25 years old. I'm now nearing 70. I would probably be a lot
healthier if I were to lose 50 to 75 pounds. I know this, yet I
continue not to heed it. My blood chemistry is "normal" -- I have
no major blood chemistry problems. My blood pressure is generally
135 / 75-80. I have a 54-inch waist yet I can bend over and touch
my knuckles on the floor in front of my toes. I can still do 50
sit-ups in under two minutes. I regularly walk 2 miles a day
minimum and about 5-6 miles when I play a round of golf -- and I
walk for the golf, rather than ride in a cart. So I try to take
pretty good care of myself.

Over the years I have learned a few things about my own body and
health, how I react to certain foods and food supplements. This
does not say anything about how you will react to these things...
only that you need to be aware of what your body is doing and
what your body is telling you about why it is doing those things.

For example, I love salads, especially green salads. And they
give me loads of gas and bloating. I know this, so I try to eat a
small salad at least once a day. It's only when I get carried
away and have a large salad, or second helping, that I get
bloated and gassy.

I have an allergic reaction to all artificial sweeteners, such as
aspartame. Prolonged use, say 1 cup of artificially sweetened
international coffee or 1 diet soda a day for a month, will raise
my blood pressure above 150. I have a similar reaction to
prolonged use (two weeks or more) of all vitamins except Vitamins
C and E. I have a very bad physical reaction to several
prescription medications and food supplements, which include
tetracycline, biocyllin and amino acids.

I used to get a Flu Shot every year -- and I would get the Flu 3
times a year. The first time was immediately after the shot, the
second time was 3 months after the shot and the third time was 6
months after the shot. I documented this for about 10 years and,
after talking it over with my doctor, quit taking flu shots. I
now get the flu about once every 5 years or less and it doesn't
make me as sick as it used to make me.

The things I do, however, are the things that keep me healthy.
These are walking regularly and playing golf. They also include
taking 2000 units of Vitamin C daily for over 40 years, and
taking 50 units each of both Zinc and Selenium once a week. And
about the middle of November every year I up the Zinc and
Selenium intake to 5-6 times a week.

I play Santa at a mall every Christmas season for 4-5 weeks, and
I come into contact with just about every disease and bug known
to man during that period. Yet I seldom get sick, and when I do
get sick I neither feel sick nor exhibit symptoms to those around
me. I attribute this to the Zinc and Selenium I take. I've been
taking these for 8 years now, and in that time have only been
sick once -- and at that, no one around me knew I was sick.

Each of us is different from one another; each of us must make
our own personal health assessment. We must learn to recognize
what our body is telling us about what is going on inside and why,
and we must also learn which preventatives work and which don't
on an individual basis.

In this article I'm both sharing excellent general health
information and telling you what works for me, why, and what
doesn't and why. It's up to you to learn what works for you and
what doesn't and why. And then to do whatever it takes to
maintain your health at optimum levels. Good luck and good health.

Copyright  2004 by http://www.organicgreens.us and Loring Windblad

About Loring: Loring Windblad has studied nutrition and exercise
for more than 40 years, is a published author and freelance
writer. He is the author of 2 paperback books and 4 eBooks. His
latest business endeavor is at http://www.organicgreens.us



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