What is the definition of good health?
Is it having perfect cholesterol and blood pressure numbers? Is it being up-to-date on preventative care like vaccines, mammograms and colonoscopies? It it making sure you see your physician at least once per year?
While these are all a very important part of being healthy, they are only one part of the total equation. To be in an optimal state of health, we must have balance in the three major parts of our being: body, mind and spirit.
To keep our body healthy, we should eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, be physically fit, maintain a reasonable body weight, get plenty of sleep, and keep stress levels in check. We should see our primary care physician regularly, take medications as prescribed, and stay up to date with preventative care.
A healthy mind loves to learn new things. Learning is not something that should stop once our formal education is completed. We are at our best when we continue to challenge ourselves mentally. Maybe this means reading more books or working difficult puzzles. Maybe it means learning a new skill like a sport, musical instrument or a new craft. We should stay curious and have a hunger for knowledge no matter how old our age.
In order to keep our spirit healthy we need to have a reason to get out of bed each morning. We need to be able to share our unique talents with the world. We must love others and feel love in return. It helps to have a foundation of spiritual beliefs which can guide us not only during times of crisis but also on a day to day basis.
As a society, our lives have become very busy and stressful. This make it difficult for us to place our health at a high priority. It is way too easy to slip into poor dietary habits, or to skip a workout. We have so much to do that we often go to bed too late and get up too early. Sometimes when we do go to bed, we toss and turn because we are over stressed and filled with anxiety over the overwhelming list of things that we must get done tomorrow. It is hard to find time to light a candle, listen to some music, read a good book or just sit quietly while focusing on our inner thoughts and emotions. We must make a conscious effort to put our health and well being near the top of our to do list. We need to make ourselves a priority. We need to remember that our health is an investment and not an expense.
I often worry about the direction medicine is headed. Patients are being treated as if their whole existence is a set of numbers on a lab sheet or some pictures in an MRI scan instead of being seen as complex, thinking, feeling individuals. This impersonal approach to health care is driving up health care costs while decreasing the overall quality of care provided. This leads to poor health as well as dissatisfaction among patients and health care providers alike. I see the role of a good physician as someone who can treat the whole person including mind, body and spirit. A good physician does more than just ensure your blood sugar levels are at goal or that you are up to date on your cancer screenings. A good physician can be your guide on your journey through life and help direct you to the path of optimal health. They can be a shoulder to cry on during difficult times and a trusted source for advice, both medical and non-medical. A good physician will help you overcome bad habits such as smoking, excessive drinking or daily fast food and help you replace them with good habits like regular exercise and healthy eating. A good physician is not only a top notch diagnostician but also an outstanding listener. A good physician will never judge you and will inspire you to achieve your absolute best in every aspect of your life. Patients and physicians both need to start viewing health as an investment and not an expense. It is an investment in a better future full of many years of optimal health and happiness.