Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a condition that “refers to the overall health of an individual through his or her responses to bodily stimuli.” Different definitions have been utilized over the years for diverse purposes. In our current society, however, the focus tends to be on the need to maintain a healthy weight, which often includes a focus on exercise and dieting. Despite the different approaches, health remains a critical concern for most Americans.
An accurate assessment of one’s health status usually requires more than just an evaluation of age, gender, and weight. Rather, one should consider a comprehensive range of factors in addition to these three to produce a comprehensive picture of health status. Some of the most important factors that affect health status include:
Population Health The size of a country, its population, directly impacts public health. As population ages the risk of many diseases, such as heart disease, increases because more people are living with the consequences of unhealthy lifestyles. One way to address this issue is through active lifestyle – meaning that diet, exercise, and other things within our daily lives are part of our routine. For instance, people who live in rural areas and who witness low levels of community development tend to live with higher health problems, including higher blood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions. Conversely, those who live in urban and developed communities tend to have higher overall health.
Stress, whether from work or from other sources, can negatively impact the quality of life. For example, a study conducted in Finland demonstrated that those who are frequently exposed to high levels of stress display greater mortality rates than those who are less stressed. It is not clear from this study whether the increased mortality rate is caused by stress from work or by stress from other sources, but it is suggestive of the potential impact of stress on public health. Given the high level of mortality that has been reported in industrialized nations, it is clear that effective measures must be taken to reduce stress and increase the general healthy index.
Physical Activity is associated with better health in several ways. One way is through its association with physical health. People who are physically active tend to have longer life expectancies. They also experience less fatigue and are less likely to develop illnesses linked to being inactive.
Diet and Exercise There are good evidence that dietary interventions, specifically improved nutrition, may lead to a reduction in age-related illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Similarly, exercise has been shown to positively affect disease outcomes. Studies have also shown an association between diet and physical activity and the prevention of several types of cancer. Together, these findings suggest that maintaining a balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity can contribute to optimal health.