Health is a condition of mental, physical and emotional well being in which infirmity and illness are absent. It is a state in which the person is able to enjoy life to its fullest, and in which he or she is not debilitated by disease, disability or suffering. The term “health” may be used in different contexts, depending on the context in which it is used. In this context, health is not necessarily associated with being overweight, as it covers all those conditions that affect the total quality of life.
Broadly, when we speak of health we refer to the absence of all the diseases and disabilities that impair the normal functioning of the body. This definition of health has various other dimensions. When we speak of the physical health, we refer to the ability of the body to perform its functions. We also speak of the capacity of the body to heal, the ability of the body to bear pain and suffering and the capacity of the body to perceive and respond to stimuli.
A more accurate definition would be the ability of a human being to exist and survive independently, without the contribution of any external source. By making this definition more precise, we come close to understanding the concept of healthy living as a survival skill, and hence a means of enhancing one’s chances of surviving under varying circumstances. A higher level of education, a higher income, a safer neighborhood, a healthier diet, and moderate exercise are all aspects that contribute to good health. These factors do not guarantee good health, and some of them are beyond the control of any individual. When any one of these factors is missing, however, good health becomes a possibility.
The definition of healthy living relies on the fact that absence does not imply absence of disease. Although no single definition will eliminate all disease, sufficient research has shown that there are four classifications of diseases. These are chronic diseases, which include arthritis, diabetes, cancer and Parkinson’s disease; acute diseases, which include high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma and gastrointestinal tract disease; and life-threatening diseases, which include diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, stroke, pulmonary embolism and infectious diseases. By keeping these definitions in mind, it should be possible to draw a distinction between healthy and unhealthy living.
The other important factor that distinguishes a healthy lifestyle from an unhealthy one is substance abuse. If the definition of healthy extends to abstaining from alcohol or cigarettes, then a definition of healthy must also include abstention from use of other substances that are capable of causing harm if abused. The most common forms of substance abuse include heroin, methamphetamines, cocaine and crack. A complete physical examination, including a complete medical history, is necessary in order to establish whether drug abuse is present. A regional office of drug abuse can help with these procedures, although a complete medical history is only important if toxicologic testing is not available.
A definition of perfect health requires us to recognize that absence creates the possibility of disease. Absence of disease is associated with tremendous power in both absolute and relative terms. Without disease, death would certainly be inevitable. Although absence does not equal death, absence without disease provides ample opportunity for survival.