What is Optimal Health?

optimal healthA few weeks ago, I wrote about the “one bite at a time concept” from my website tagline. Today, so let’s turn our attention to the phrase “optimal health.” What is that, exactly?

First, let’s get official. In the preamble to its constitution, the World Health Organization says: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

I love that definition, but it can be hard for some people to get to a place of “complete physical, mental and social well-being” (not that we shouldn’t try). To my mind, optimal health is personal. It depends on where you’ve been, healthwise, and where you are today. For example, optimal health for a college track athlete is going to look very different than it is for a 60-something woman with diabetes and high blood pressure. That said, two things are universal:

Optimal health is about being as healthy as only you can be.

If you want optimal health, you need to eat nutritiously and move your body regularly in ways that are appropriate for your fitness level.

So How Can You Reach Optimal Health if You…

…have a chronic health condition? There’s no cure for most chronic health conditions. Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and asthma are a few examples. That doesn’t mean you can’t keep these conditions under control. And control them you should, because when you do, you’ll reduce your risk of serious complications from your condition. Once the horse is out of the barn, so to speak, and it’s too late for prevention, a controlled condition puts you in a much better health position than uncontrolled.

…are at high risk of developing a chronic health condition? Are your health habits are not as strong as they could be? Is your doctor is warning you that, your blood sugar, or maybe your blood pressure, is a little too high? Believe it or not, you are in a powerful position. If you change your habits now, odds are very good that you can get yourself out of the danger zone—without a drop of medication. An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.

…have so-so health habits, but seem to be “getting by”? As years of poor nutrition, lack of activity and excess pounds stack up, you are allowing the kind of slow, steady damage to your body that sets the stage for disease. Don’t wait until you get warnings from your doctor. Make changes now that will make you feel better every day while protecting your future health.

…are a living embodiment of health? Don’t rest on your laurels. Really go for the optimal health “gold” by trying new fitness activities, increasing the variety of fruits and vegetable you eat, and being a good role model for those around you. Ask yourself if your fitness routine is well-rounded—do you need to add strength training, stretching or balance exercises? Look for little nutritional tweaks like eating more actual whole grains, and fewer products made with whole grain flour.

The Bottom Line

Nutrition and exercise plays a role in many, many, many health conditions, especially the biggies like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, stroke and some cancers. Eating poorly and being sedentary may not catch up with a person right away (part of this depends on genetics) but it will eventually. Even if you “get away” with unhealthy habits, you probably don’t feel your best every day (which you may not even notice, because it’s become your “normal”). Don’t be that person!