Each of us may define health a little differently. The most widely accepted modern definition comes from the World Health Organization and was adopted in 1946: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Several years ago I was hosting a panel discussion of local health care professionals. One of the panelists, who is an oncologist, made a very profound statement. He said, “Everyone dies, but not everyone lives.” He went on to say, “I work with patients with terminal cancer that I consider to be in better health than some people I know who suffer from no illness at all.” His point was that health is so much more than simply the absence of disease. Your health is your quality of life.
I feel blessed that longevity runs in my family. My dad lived to age 88 and my mom to 92. And, they were of the generation that didn’t pay much attention to exercise or nutrition, although neither was overweight. I have spent my entire adult life in the health and fitness field, I workout regularly, and yet a couple of years ago I had the scare of my life. My wife and I were sitting in a restaurant having dinner when I experienced a tightness in my chest. I couldn’t breathe and became very dizzy. I came very near passing out, but managed to hold it off until I felt better. I didn’t have the pain and other symptoms that come with a heart attack, but something wasn’t right.
My wife drove us home and I checked my blood pressure. It was extremely high. I called the doctor the next morning and he got me in immediately. My blood pressure was still much too high. He did an EKG and my heart checked out okay. He ordered a treadmill stress test which also checked out okay. So what was the cause? It was STRESS.
I had been under a tremendous amount of stress, some self-imposed, and some external. But nonetheless it had taken its toll, and unless I made some changes, the end result would not be good. It was that incident, or wake up call, that encouraged me to work on simplifying my life to reduce the stress, and to design my lifestyle instead of letting my life design me.
So now, I want to challenge you to think about your health in these ways:
- Your physical health – maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly 3 to 4 times per week
- Your mental health – low stress level, sense of purpose in your life, ability to relax, daily quiet time
- Spiritual health – involvement in a weekly faith community
- Relationship health – loving and meaningful relationships with close family members and friends
- Nutrition – eat a diet with a “plant slant,” high in fresh fruits and vegetables; low in meat, sugar, and processed foods
If any one of the above dimensions of your life is deficient, consider making some changes. If more than one dimension is off, your health risk is increased even more. Pick one area that needs improvement, and work on it this week. Start with one small change. Go for a walk each day, eliminate deserts for a week, get up earlier and have some quiet time in the morning, go to church, show gratitude to a family member or friend. Start somewhere. Take the first step.