What does good health really mean?
The word "health" refers to a state of complete emotional and physical well-being. Healthcare exists to help people maintain this optimal state of health.
In 2015, the population of the United States (U.S.) spent an estimated $3.2 trillion on healthcare costs.
However, despite this expenditure, a study by the U.S. National Research Council, published in 2013, showed that Americans die at a younger age and experience more illness and injury than people in other developed countries.
Good health is central to handling stress and living a long and active life.
Fast facts on health
Here are some key points about health. More detail is in the main article.
Health can be defined as physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and as a resource for living a full life.
It refers not only to the absence of disease, but the ability to recover and bounce back from illness and other problems.
Factors for good health include genetics, the environment, relationships, and education.
A healthful diet, exercise, screening for diseases, and coping strategies can all enhance a person's health.
What is health?
In 1948, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health with a phrase that is still used today.
"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." WHO, 1948.
In 1986, the WHO further clarified that health is:
"A resource for everyday life, not the objective of living. Health is a positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities."
This means that health is a resource to support an individual's function in wider society. A healthful lifestyle provides the means to lead a full life.
More recently, researchers have defined health as the ability of a body to adapt to new threats and infirmities. They base this on the idea that modern science has dramatically increased human awareness of diseases and how they work in the last few decades.
The best way to maintain health is to preserve it through a healthful lifestyle, rather than waiting until we are sick to put things right.
This state of enhanced well-being is referred to as wellness.
The McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois IL defines wellness as:
"A state of optimal well-being that is oriented toward maximizing an individual's potential. This is a life-long process of moving towards enhancing your physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and environmental well-being."
Wellness promotes an active awareness of and participation in health, as an individual and in the community.
Maintaining wellness and optimal health is a lifelong, daily commitment.
Steps that can help us maximize our health include:
a balanced, nutritious diet, sourced as naturally as possible
screening for diseases that may present a risk
learning to manage stress
engaging in activities that provide purpose and connection to others
maintaining a positive outlook and appreciating what you have
defining a value system, and putting it into action
Peak health will be different for each person, and how you achieve wellness may be different from how someone else does.
It may not be possible to avoid disease completely, but doing as much as we can to develop resilience and prepare the body and mind to deal with problems as they arise is a step we can all take.