What is Health
What is health?
Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. There are many avenues to achieve this state and they all work interdependently.
What comes to mind when you think of taking risks with your health - driving recklessly, or maybe abusing alcohol or illegal drugs? Those behaviours are certainly risky; however, many people have less dramatic behaviours that are just as dangerous in the long run. Tobacco use, unbalanced nutrition (too many calories and/or too much of one food group and not enough of the others) and a lack of physical activity are some of the key risk factors for the most common causes of death.
Certain health behaviours are known to be associated with increased mortality and morbidity for a number of conditions. Limited examples of known risk factors include smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, and exposure to UV radiation. Improvements in health status can result from behaviour changes in relation to these risk factors.
Many health risks have changed in the last century with antibiotics, clean drinking water, and waste care and treatment. A few of the most common causes of death, which can often be closely linked to lifestyle choices, today are:
- cardiovascular disease
- infectious and parasitic diseases
- ischaemic heart disease
- respiratory disease and infections
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- accidents including drowning, falling, driving (many are alcohol-related)
- diabetes mellitus
- Alzheimer’s disease
- kidney disease
Another very important risk factor today is obesity. It can and does lead to other problems with health such as heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory problems just to name a few. This is not yet a global problem, but it is certainly a crisis for countries such as the Americas, Australia and a number of other developed countries in Europe and the Middle East. It is estimated at the time of writing (2011) there are around 300 million obese people and around 750 million overweight people in the world. With these staggering figures and data of current world population numbers, we conclude that currently 16% of the world’s population is overweight or obese.
Being overweight or obese is associated with increased mortality and morbidity from the burden of disease. A number of conditions including coronary heart disease, hypertension, non-insulin-dependant Diabetes type II (diabetes mellitus) ,degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis), cancer of the breast, colon and kidney are often attributed to excessive weight gain over long periods of time. Body-mass index (BMI), is a statistical measurement calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in metres squared (kg/m2).
By reducing body mass index (BMI) a person can decrease their health and reduce the risk of developing diseases associated with obesity and being overweight. You should note BMI measurements do not calculate a person’s percentage of body fat as commonly misinterpreted.
Regular exercise is important but the benefits of exercise go beyond the initial thought of weight loss. Participating in regular exercise reduces the incidence of cardiovascular disease by strengthening the heart muscle and decreasing resting blood pressure rate. In addition to cardiovascular benefits, regular exercise strengthens bone tissue and so can also reduce the risk of injury from falls and conditions such as osteoporosis later in life.
Exercised muscle tissues need time and energy to recover and repair and so you continue to utilise energy stores after exercise is finished and even during sleep. This increases basal metabolism (the energy used by the body while at rest). People tend to feel energised after exercise as blood flow has increased to all vital organs and the skin carrying oxygen and other essential nutrients to cells.
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