Recently I went to a physician and left pondering the question: “What is health anyway?”

This is an interesting question, especially one for a doctor to ask.

But it’s important because if we don’t know what health is, how do we know if we’ve got it? If we don’t know what health is, how do we know we’ve improved?

As a doctor and medical writer, I’m finding it more and more difficult to write about health without really being able to say what it is and how you know if you have it. I’ve been looking for a way to see health differently – if for no other reason than to better empower people in managing their own health.

So more than an interesting question for a doctor to ask, it’s a critical question for a doctor to ask. But it’s not as easy to answer as it looks.

What does health mean to you?

Take a moment to think about what health means to you, and how you might define it to someone else.

Tricky isn’t it? Because, somehow, whatever words we use don’t quite capture the whole concept that we have in our heads.

We might think that health is something we feel. Right now I feel healthy. I feel great. But despite this, the doctor wasn’t quite so enthusiastic after considering my age and the things doctors like to look at. Yes I know I need to lose some weight, eat better, exercise more.

But all these things must be done for problems I might have in the future. I have no illnesses now, but I do have some risk factors now. Does that make me unhealthy? Or does it mean I’m healthy but I’ve made some unhealthy choices recently that can be improved with a small turn back towards healthier choices?

Continue reading...