Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is, “a condition of full physical, mental and emotional well-being with no limitations.” A variety of other definitions have also been used over time with varying degrees of meaning. Health is a broad concept that includes a person’s total quality of life and how he or she sustains it. It therefore, encompasses mental health, which focus on the ability to enjoy life, and emotional health, which focus on how an individual relates to his or her emotions. Although all three components are important, health is often difficult to define and evaluate given the multiplicity of terms.
Health problems are commonly associated with aging, although they are common among healthy people as well. Age is known to increase vulnerability to illness and disease, although changes in lifestyle and behavior can reduce this vulnerability over time. As people age, they become less active and are at higher risk for illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. The onset of chronic illness is also more common as people age. Some forms of mental health deteriorate with age, while others improve.
Stress is a major contributor to many health problems, including mental health problems and cardiovascular disease. A balanced lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and regular exercise has been shown to be associated with decreased stress levels and a reduction in the prevalence of both cardiovascular and osteoporosis. A healthy balance of spirituality and physical activity has been linked to increased physical well-being, as well as higher self-esteem and fewer stress-related illnesses.
Research has indicated that the presence of both unhealthy behaviors and unhealthy environmental factors is a major cause of illness and disease. These include substance use, smoking, sedentary transportation and poor nutritional intake. According to a national survey of adults, those who had a high level of stress were more likely to have prevalent illness and disease, as well as to report higher levels of disability than those who had a low level of stress.
Poor dietary habits and a lack of physical activity contribute to both poor mental health problems and physical illness. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables helps to keep the body healthy and functioning properly. A multivitamin supplement may also prove valuable.
Staying healthy and combating illness begins with awareness and a strong sense of purpose. Many people today lead unhealthy lifestyles and are at risk for chronic illness and diseases. Health professionals recognize the need for ongoing education regarding prevention, screening and treatment of chronic diseases. Programs such as the Blue Ribbon Panel and national screenings are ways to increase public awareness of the importance of physical wellness. By adopting a healthier lifestyle, people can significantly reduce their risk for common diseases and illnesses, as well as prevent future illnesses from developing.