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Nutrition 102: What is health?

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

Have you ever asked your doctor to define health? I am super sure that he will give you a textbook definition of health, that would go like this-- “Health is the absence of disease”. Or he may even go one step further and rant this, “Your health is a state where you feel completely well both physically, mentally and socially, and not merely just the absence of a disease”.

As much as a fitness enthusiast that I am, I am a believer of a different definition of health. Coined by my favorite cardiologist-turned-educator-turned holistic medicine doctor B. M. Hedge, I now believe in his definition of health. He says; “ if you wake up one morning feeling enthusiastic to go to work and enthusiastic to become compassionate, you are healthy’. What wise words of wisdom are these. He does not use the health definition that was taught to him during his medical school days, a long time ago, but that his definition is what he learned over the years through experience.

So if I break this down, health means if you are able to wake up in the morning feeling absolutely great, and happy to be alive and looking forward to ticking your office checklist for the day, and all along the day, you smile and try to help others in without holding any grudges, congratulations, you are healthy. Now, I ask you to pause for a while, evaluate your morning today. And ask yourself this question--’Am I really healthy?’ And while you do so, don’t worry about your blood reports lurking inside your closed cupboards, or that BP monitor beeping your stats for the day. Forget these medical terms and their average standardized values. Just ponder on the 2 aspects of health that this doctor has revealed.

All of us want good health and long lives. And yes, we have the full right to live our lives in the best terms. But what happens instead? Do we get scared and run behind doctors and medicines to cure even the simplest of the common cold that we get? Or do we learn to listen to our internal doctor, our immunity fighting soldiers?

Years ago, I too did the rounds of many doctors trying to find out why my sleep was ruined and why I was feeling very sad and lonely, although being surrounded by family friends. My mom was worried and as usual, she took me to our family physician. Blood reports were all normal, or maybe a little low and high here and there. But as Dr. B. M. Hegde points out, what is normal to you may not be normal to your neighbor. Our bodies, our surroundings, our genetics, etc play a good role in determining our normal levels. So unless we develop serious symptoms that require a full body scan, don’t fall for this common hospital marketing strategy.

Dr. Hegde, tells of a very familiar case of a marathon running competition. Backed by some health organizations or some hospitals, these marathons are after participants who will then turn into their patients. After completing the run, many will be tested for basic parameters and then given a ticket to a free counseling session by the world-renowned doctors of that sponsored hospital. Out of these participants, the