What does it mean to have a healthy body? An author once said that, “Health is merely the slowest way someone can die.” Is this how you look at your health and wellbeing? If it is, then what about those individuals who have lost the enthusiasm needed to make a full contribution to their life and health?
According to Australian Psychiatrist Dr John Diamond, these individuals lose their “inner flame”. He uses this term for a significant life event that alters their love of life. Subconsciously, they spend the rest of their life in a regressive and destructive manner. Discussing with these people how to improve their health often proves futile as they will unconsciously sabotage any attempts to improve their health and wellbeing.
Another worker in the field of human improvement, UK-based Robert Holden, claims that each one of us has a “set point out of 10” at which we are “comfortable” with our happiness”. A quite colourful character, he once asked a nun to stay on “9/10” for a few moments and asked how she felt. With sweat running down her face she remarked, “I like it but it feels a little naughty!”
On a more intellectual note, the World Health Organization (WHO) takes a more inclusive viewpoint to health, which it defines as, “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” In respect to the health of our nation, the latest survey paints a grim picture of the rise of chronic diseases in our community. Australia’s Health Report 2012 reveals that almost all Australians 15 years and older have at least one risk factor for poorer health such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Childhood obesity is also high amongst our society. It has been said that for the first time parents may actually outlive their children due to the rise of chronic and degenerative diseases amongst our younger population!
Researcher Leon Gordis studied the onset, progression and incidence of disease in society and published his work in 1996. He illustrated the natural progression of disease in the diagram below:
As the diagram illustrates, before we actually suffer a disease or disorder, there is always a preceding period of symptoms. For true preventative wellbeing, however, we need to dig deeper and focus our attention on the biological onset of disease (or the preclinical phase). Patients in the preclinical stage are not yet aware of any symptoms but have the most influence in altering the likelihood of developing a particular disease. Research in the past decade has shown us that our lifestyle and dietary choices play a bigger role in determining our risk of disease than the genes we inherited from our parents. This maturing field of science is called epigenetics and has gained a lot of attention in understanding the true causes of disease onset.
Our bodies are like this picture of the tree in the ground. Think of the tree leaves as the physical appearance of your body and any associated symptoms. It will often take years of poor lifestyle or dietary choices (the soil) to poison the body (the rest of the tree). If we truly want to live a happy and healthy life, then we need to start making the right choices now to reduce the multiple risk factors that contribute to disease.
I have adapted Leon Gordis’ disease progression model to more accurately reflect how the poor lifestyle and dietary choices you make now have a bigger impact on your long term health. The impact is far greater than than just waiting to be treated when disease strikes later in life. The new model is shown on the left. In a later blog we will discuss the specific risk factors that need to be eliminated and what lifestyle choices you can take to alter your long-term health.
As the late Fast and Furious actor, Paul Walker, once said:
“You know, all that really matters is that the people you love are happy and healthy. Everything else is just sprinkles on the sundae.”