The Concept Behind the Word 'Health'
With epidemics of obesity and disease affecting millions of people across the world, focusing on living a healthy lifestyle is vital. Living a healthy lifestyle requires pursuing activities that promote health andavoiding activities that don’t.It also requires balancing physical health with brain health, and sometimes involves screening for conditions you’re predisposed to.
Thanks to scientific studies, actions that work against your health aren’t difficult to identify. For example, smoking cigarettes, consuming large amounts of alcohol, eating heavily preserved foods, and not getting enough exercise have all been linked to health problems.
On the flip side, actions that promote overall health – like eating healthy – are difficult to pursue because everyone has a different idea of what “eating healthy” means. To some people, eating produce covered in pesticides is healthy because it’s better than eating fast food. For others, eating a salad smothered in 1,300 calories of bleu cheese dressing is healthy because they’re eating a few vegetables.
This is a misleading generalization to buy into. Salad is “healthy,” but if you only eat lettuce and tomatoes, you’ll eventually become malnourished. Water is also “healthy,” but drinking too much water can be fatal. Blueberries are “healthy,” but not for someone with diabetes because they are full of sugar.
Generalizing the definition of healthy by assigning it to specific foods or behaviors is dangerous. Due to the ambiguity, it’s time to revisit, and possibly annihilate the idea that any single food or action can be, by definition, “healthy.”
Healthy is an overused term
The word “healthy” is overused and generalized by laymen, and surprisingly, some medical professionals. The generalization that a person is healthy unless they show symptoms can lead to a missed diagnosis of a serious condition. For example, atrial fibrillation can be serious and needs to be treated. A health care provider can identify atrial fibrillation by analyzing patterns from an ECG, which shows the heart’s electrical activity.
The problem is, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends doctors not offer EKGs/ECGs to “healthy people” who don’t have symptoms. They say these tests won’t help predict heart problems in “healthy people” but defining a healthy person as someone who doesn’t show symptoms is a problem. People can have a major illness, even late-stage cancer, without showing symptoms.
Not everyone experiences the arrhythmia that would cause concern. According to Spectrum Health, many people have atrial fibrillation and never feel it. Sometimes people experience symptoms like fast or irregular palpitations, difficulty breathing, chest pain, and fainting. Others can’t exercise and may not know why, but it’s not across the board.
In addition to generalizing the definition of healthy, you’ve got to watch out for marketing tactics using the word to define specific foods. Marketers will tell you to ditch this unhealthy food and replace it with their healthy alternative, but again, the word healthy is arbitrary.
Avoid the compulsion to look for healthy replacements
Once you’ve decided to board the healthy train, it’s tempting to look for replacements before you give up unhealthy habits and vices. Before you do, consider that most replacements may not be as healthy as they look.
Sugar is usually the first thing people give up when they decide to live a healthy life. It’s also the first thing people strive to replace. Not everyone enjoys an unsweetened cup of coffee or tea. For many, giving up sugar and all of its substitutes means never enjoying coffee or tea again.
Sugar is the first thing people give up because it’srightfully earned a reputation for causing obesity. Sugar releases insulin – a fat storing hormone – into the bloodstream. Anything the body can’t immediately use, the insulin stores in fat cells to be used later as fuel.
Plenty of sugar alternatives exist and some are marketed as “healthy sugar.” There’s agave nectar, raw honey, raw sugar, molasses, maple syrup, coconut sugar, and of course, carcinogenic fake sugars like sucralose (Splenda) and aspartame.
The problem is, your blood sugar goes up and insulin is released no matter what kind of sugar you consume. There’s no such thing as “healthy” sugar, Rebecca Adams from the Huffington Post explains.Maple syrup has minerals the body craves, and processed sugar is worse for you than raw sugar, but they both flood your bloodstream with insulin. The truth is, if it raises your blood sugar, it’s not healthy.
Take a holistic snapshot of your life to define health
Take a holistic view of your life to determine what it means to be healthy. Are you exercising regularly and maintaining a low body fat percentage? Are you on track to reach your fitness goals? Look at the big picture because healthy is relative to each individual.