Amidst the cacophony of marketing messages clamouring for our attention, we might well conclude that in pursuing a healthy lifestyle, we are becoming fashion victims. But healthy living is no fad. It is the modern front line against disease. Most of the world’s population is now accustomed to vaccines, hygiene and antibiotics. The fight against contagious diseases has been spectacularly successful.
Whilst we must remain vigilant to the threat of these diseases, we have now also to face those conditions that kill us from within; those that weaken our organs, that disrupt our circulatory system, that diminish or confuse our minds, that corrupt our cells.
The medical profession calls them ‘non-communicable diseases’ or ‘chronic conditions’. We tend to know them as heart disease, diabetes, cancers and mental illness. Whilst there are certain environmental and genetic influences on the development of these conditions, the key to keeping them at bay is to treat our bodies as respectfully as we can. Otherwise, we are playing with fire.
Naturally, as we live longer, we are more likely to suffer from one or more of these conditions. Half of us will suffer from cancer, for example. It would be far easier if medical science could simply cure us of our ills. And perhaps we have assumed that it will. But what is possible in the face of contagious diseases is not simply applicable to these conditions. And if we choose to make it harder to combat these diseases by smoking, eating too much or isolating ourselves from others, then are we not in some sense the makers of our own misery?
The public health campaigner, Dr. David Katz, encourages us to ‘add years to our life and add life to our years’. That is the point of healthy living.
The concept of Our Health places the attention on the behaviour of the individual, but not in isolation. We are not the autonomous rational creatures we think we are. We act in response to patterns of life around us. We must make personal choices about our way of life, but these are easier to fulfil if there are others alongside us making similar choices: Pursue with others what you wish for yourself!
This section provides a whole raft of information and comment about the practise of healthy living. We face a confused, contested and congested flow of information. In weighing up research and experience, these articles aim for accurate, balanced knowledge that may promote practical wisdom for lives well lived.