I’d best be honest. I’m not actually going to tell YOU how to be healthy.
I might advocate how ‘people’ in general can seek to be healthy. I might discuss how I try to be healthy.
In my professional life I certainly try to optimise the health of my individual patients
BUT here on the internet I cannot really tell YOU how to be healthy.
This is an important topic to address at the moment in the blogging world.
The Internet is full of a mixture of fantastic health resources, and as the revelations a little while ago about wellness blogger Belle Gibson show, some dubious health claims.
Clearly there should be no room for downright lies or deliberately misleading claims.
In addition, whilst there is a huge amount of evidence about things that optimise the health of populations; exercise and a balenced diet for example. Being ‘healthy’ is to a certain extent unique to us as individuals.
Here is why:
What is health?
Once upon a time health simply meant the absence of disease. As a doctor it is still easy to fall into this pattern of thinking. If a patient does not have an illness – they must therefore be healthy. As Richard Smith writes in an excellent BMJ blog on this question:
‘doctors are interested in disease, not in health’
Although a little blunt to be wholly true, there are many public health physicians and GPs who invest lots of time on health promotion, I fully agree that many of us are focussed on the diagnosis and management of illness.
However, in 1948 the World Health Organisation produced a radical new definition of health:
Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease.
I am rather fond of this definition. I value the holistic approach involving both emotions and social well-being in addition to physical health. Unfortunately, if we aspire to this definition, most of us are, at least a little bit unhealthy, a lot of the time.
Recently there has been a new definiton of health proposed.
The ability to adapt and self manage in the face of social, emotional and physical challenges.
This statement empowers us as individuals to have a greater control over our health. It recognises that all of us will face some challenges; complete wellbeing is not held as the pinnacle of health. Importantly this definition also allows those with a chronic illness or disability to be defined as healthy.
As a parent I have had physial changes to my body as a result of childbirth; hormones, sleep deprivation and the incessant parental responsibility present some emotional challenges; the undjustment to new social circumstances is initially unsettling.
Not huge challenges, but I continue to try to adapt to these new circumstances, to maintain my health.
So how to be healthy?
I cannot tell you exactly how to be healthy, but the good news is you can choose for yourself. You can decide how you would like to manage your own wellbeing and how to prioritise the three different aspects of health, depending on your unique circumstances.
Of course aspiring to health does not prevent disease. Any of us could at any time become physically or mentally unwell. I can only hope to adapt and self manage to whatever challenges the future might hold and remember that health is so very precious.