What is health and how do we know when we are healthy? These are not questions that can be easily answered. I have known individuals who have walked out of a specialists rooms having just passed through the usual ECG and other common tests with flying colours and suffered a heart attack in the lift on the way out of the building.
Many cancer patients have been extremely well until on routine examination a lump is diagnosed which turns out to be malignant. Thousands upon thousands of people without any symptoms and who regard themselves as normal and healthy are diagnosed every day with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, early diabetes, abnormal pap smears, cancers, enlarged prostates, nodules on thyroids and other medical conditions and yet would of regarded themselves as healthy. Modern medicine has made possible the detection of a whole range of diseases, which until fairly recently would have gone undetected.
Is a person who feels well and regards himself in good health indeed healthy if he has an underlying high blood pressure, increased cholesterol or even a hidden cancer? How are we to incorporate ideas of psychological health? Is this separate from health of the physical body? If a person is depressed, but physically healthy, is such a person to be regarded as healthy? Is psychological health or physical health more important?
We can begin to see how complicated this issue is and that no simple answer is possible. Collins dictionary defines health as physical and mental well-being; freedom from disease. As indicated above physical and mental well-being does not mean that the person is however free of disease. It is possible of course that as our means of detecting the earlier stages of disease becomes more sensitive, that more and more people will be labelled as ill without having any symptoms and signs.
Already today many thousands of “healthy” individuals are taking expensive medication for high blood pressure long before it produces any obvious symptoms. This medication must be taken for the rest of that person’s life and may produce mild to severe and even life threatening ill health. The benefits of taking the medication are regarded as better than the risks of not taking the medication. I will be looking at the issue of drugs in another blog.
This is an extract from the book Healthy Medicine by Dr Bernard Brom. Look inside the book here.