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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Ustrzycki

HEALTH: what does it really mean?

In 1948, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health as: "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."

Then in 1986, it was further clarified as: "a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living. Health is a positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities."

I think it’s a safe agreement that this term has changed over the years, even more so recently. We can further break down this term into categories.

Physical health: bodily functions that work at peak performance, due not only to a lack of disease, but also to regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and adequate rest. We receive treatment, when necessary, to maintain the balance. Physical well-being involves pursuing a healthful lifestyle to decrease the risk of disease. Maintaining physical fitness can protect and develop the endurance of a person's breathing and heart function, muscular strength, flexibility, and body composition.

Physical health and well-being also help reduce the risk of an injury or health issue. Examples include minimizing workplace hazards, practicing good hygiene, and avoiding the use of toxins such as tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs.

Mental health: a person's emotional, social, and psychological well-being. Mental health is as important as physical health to a full, active lifestyle. It is harder to define mental health than physical health, because, in many cases, diagnosis depends on the individual's perception of their experience. With improvements in testing, however, some signs of some types of mental illness are now becoming more visible in CT scans and genetic testing. Mental health is not only the absence of depression, anxiety or other similar challenges, but is also depends on the ability to:

  • enjoy life

  • bounce back after difficult experiences

  • achieve balance

  • adapt to adversity

  • feel safe and secure

  • achieve your potential

Physical and mental health are linked. If chronic illness affects a person's ability to complete their regular tasks, this may lead to depression and stress, for example, due to money problems.

A mental illness such as depression or anorexia nervosa can affect our body’s weight, composition, and overall function. It is important to approach "health" as a whole, rather than its different types.

Your quality and levels of health depends on a wide range of factors. A person is born with a range of genes, and in some people, an unusual genetic pattern can lead to a less-than-optimum level of health. Thankfully with today’s science of testing, we are able to understand our genetic make-up with the help of companies like AGS HEALTH & WELLNESS (click to view my YouTube vlog that explains my DNA genetics testing from AGS.)

Environmental factors play a role. Sometimes the environment alone is enough to impact health. Other times, an environmental trigger can cause illness in a person who is genetically susceptible. Some of these factors can include:

  • where a person lives

  • the state of the surrounding environment

  • genetics

  • income

  • education level

  • relationships with friends and family

We can further break down elements of health into these categories of awareness to better understand our lifestyles and how these elements really can affect us:

Social: people are naturally inclined to compare themselves to their peers. Comparing your lifestyle to others in your community is a common way of gauging your health. This creates health trends and redefines what society considers healthy habits. In this context, healthy might be yoga, shopping at a natural food store or biking to work. Making socially informed decisions like following ‘health fads’ and ‘trends’ should be well researched and though-out before deciding upon, such as detoxes and cleanses, where we think are good signs for improving health, but really may not be as healthy as their reputations suggest.

Expansive: we know that health includes your mind and soul, and it’s common to see more relaxation techniques being applied in society, such as yoga, meditation, or even the rising temazcal ceremonies. These techniques can lower blood pressure and increase attention to balance the soul and spirit. Taking care of your health is also a holistic pursuit.

Involved: being healthy is more than not being sick; living a healthy life requires a lot more work. It involves examining your habits and taking the initiative to improve all areas of your life. 75% of people own fitness-focused product (like an app, or a digital fitness tracker) that offers support and compliments a healthy life.

Routine: being healthy is a way of living, as the last point suggested; it defines your habits day to day, like regular exercise and routine physicals with your doctor. Good health is a non-negotiable part of your life. Seeking regular support and treatment to improve your health, from physical therapy to dermatology, is more common than ever before.

Relative: living healthy is relative to the life you’re leading. Feeling good is a personal definition and finding a healthy balance in your activities, nutrition and emotional needs will vary by person. As health evolves to encompass more and more parts of our lifestyle, healthy becomes relative to the person defining it. Certain core foundations will remain universal, but one person may define a healthy life as constant improvement, someone else as self-care. Still another may say living better, and another living longer. Healthy is a concept relative to your personal needs, social sphere and level of involvement.

We can learn that “heath” is more than just one term; it involves a lot of different elements and areas of awareness, and ultimately it will depend on the person’s thoughts and lifestyle. It’s important to be aware of all of these elements though, and to do your best to understand how these categories can and do impact your own life.

Resources: Northwestern Medicine ( and Medical News Today (

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