What Is Health?
Health refers to the overall well-being of your body, your mind, and your relationships with other people. Two factors that can be used to evaluate health are life expectancy and quality of life. Life expectancy is the number of years a person can expect to live. Quality of life is the degree of overall satisfaction that a person gets from life. For many people, a high quality of life is a goal. A goal is a result that a person aims for and works hard to reach. The aspects of health that are important to overall well-being are physical health, mental and emotional health, and social health. Physical health refers to how well your body functions. A healthful diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and proper medical and dental care are important for physical health. Mental health is the state of being comfortable with yourself, with others, and with your surroundings. When you are mentally healthy, your mind is alert, you can learn from your mistakes, and you recognize your achievements. Emotional health refers to how you react to events in your life. Social health refers to how well you get along with others. A continuum is a gradual progression through many stages between one extreme and another. A health continuum ranges from the extremes of poor health, or illness, through good health, or wellness. Wellness is a state of highlevel health. Many of the choices you make on a daily basis affect your position on the health continuum.
Factors that can in?uence health include heredity, environment, media, technology, healthcare, and behavior. Heredity is all the traits that are passed biologically from parent to child. Your gender is part of your heredity. Gender refers to whether you are male or female. The environment is all of the physical and social conditions that surround a person and can in?uence that person’s health. Your social environment includes the people you spend time with—your family, friends, classmates, and other people in your community. Your culture is part of your social environment. Culture is the beliefs and patterns of behavior that are shared by a group of people and passed from generation to generation. Media are forms of communication that provide news and entertainment. Media can have a positive or negative in?uence on your health. Technology can also have a positive or negative in?uence on health. Your health is in?uenced by the healthcare available to you and your family. It includes the services provided by doctors, nurses, dentists, and therapists. The decisions you make and actions you take have the greatest in?uence on your health. Sometimes behaviors become habits. A habit is a behavior that is repeated so often that it becomes almost automatic. A risk factor is any action or condition that increases the likelihood of injury, disease, or other negative outcome. There are three ways to evaluate a risk factor. Consider both short- and long-term consequences. Decide whether you can control the risk factor. Analyze the possible bene?ts and risks of a decision. You cannot control risk factors that are part of your heredity. You can control risk factors that are related to your behavior. It is impossible to grow as a person without taking risks and trying new things. You need to weigh the risks of an action against the possible bene?ts.
Taking Responsibility for Your Health
There is an ongoing national effort to improve health in the United States with a focus on prevention. Prevention is taking action to avoid disease, injury, and other negative health outcomes. Healthy People 2010 has two broad goals: Increase the years of healthy life for each American and eliminate differences in health based on race, ethnic group, or income. Healthy People 2010 includes a set of smaller goals aimed at reducing risky health behaviors. There are three steps you can take to help you meet your personal health goals—gaining awareness, gaining knowledge, and building skills. Gaining awareness is important because you must be able to recognize a health problem before you can do anything about it. The next step is to learn about the problem, including how the problem can be prevented. To help you apply what you learn, you need to master certain skills. You need to be able to analyze in?uences, access information, effectively communicate your thoughts and feelings, and make wise decisions. One step in the decision-making process is to consider your values. Your values are the standards and beliefs that are most important to you. Setting goals is also an important skill. Once you set a goal, you can develop an action plan—a series of speci?c steps you can take to achieve the goal. You need to practice healthful behaviors until they become habits. Finally, you need to learn the skill of advocacy, which involves using communication to in?uence and support others in making positive health decisions. When you are able to gather, understand, and use health information to improve your health, you will have achieved health literacy.
Being a Wise Health Consumer
A consumerbuys products or services for personal use. Some factors to consider before buying a product are its safety, cost, warranty, and consumer testing. Read the product labels and other information supplied with the product to determine its content and possible safety issues. Look for other brands or other products that will give you the same results at a lower cost. Check for a warranty—an offer to repair or replace the product if there is a problem. Find out if a government agency or private group has tested the product. When you evaluate a service, you need to ?nd out whether the person who will perform the service is quali?ed. Always ask about the person’s education and experience. You may also want to check references and see if any complaints have been ?led. To evaluate health information, you need to evaluate the source of the information. Advertising is the public promotion of a product or service. Ads can let you know what products and services are available, but they rarely provide the information you need to make wise choices. Six methods that advertisers use to sell products or services are scienti?c studies, the bandwagon approach, testimonials, comparisons to other products, emotional appeals, and price appeals. If a person tells lies to obtain money or property, the person is guilty of an illegal act called fraud. People who sell useless medical treatments or products are engaged in health fraud, or quackery. One danger of quackery is that it can keep someone from receiving proper medical care. People can avoid health fraud by carefully evaluating the claims made about a treatment or product. As a consumer, you have the right to information, the right to consumer protection by government agencies, and the right to complain. Before you complain about a product or service, remember to identify the problem, decide on your goal, collect all necessary documents, and identify the person in charge. Sometimes you will need to put your complaint in writing.