mummiefbDr. Sarita Bhargava – Pediatrician.
Qualified PALS by Indian Academy of Pediatrics.
Author of a very popular book ‘Your Precious Gem & You’.


Health is the level of functional or metabolic efficiency of a living organism. It is that balanced condition in which the harmonious performance of vital functions lead to normal development of an individual. WHO defines health as the state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Optimal health means having the best possible health by taking into consideration the genetic heritage, personal habits and environment.

The main determinants of health according to WHO are social, economic , physical environment and the individual’s behavior. In addition the lifestyle ,spirituality orientation, self worth and health care interventions influence health of an individual. Stress has come out to be a major factor affecting the health of a person. These determinants have been grouped in three fields:

Determinants and Pillars of our Health

  1. Lifestyle – All factors as dietary habits, smoking, consuming alcohol ,exercise, sleep pattern and personal hygiene  which are supposed to be under the control of self contribute to illness and death .It also includes the aspect of consuming safe food. Emphasis is laid on eating organic food , but this has not been possible in our country so far on a mass scale .Therefore to remove the pesticides raw food stuffs should be washed and disinfected properly before using.The food should be prepared using all hygienic measures and stored properly. The easiest way to maintain personal hygiene is by washing hands before putting anything in the mouth .
  2. Environmental – Factors affecting health from outside the body. These may be physical natural environment as the availability of clean water , pollution free surroundings and vegetation greenery around will provide fresh air.Built up environment includes proper housing facilities , safe roads , parks and play areas for children .
  3. Social –This includes one’s association with the community members  , his relationships with persons  in the society . It has been  found that greater  social interactions lessen the health problems.Strong social relationships have been linked to positive mental health and increased longevity. Parent infant bonding has a huge impact on the health of the child.
  4. Biological – All physical and mental  factors that exist within the body as the genetic  pattern. Certain diseases , habits and behavior patterns are inherited by  the children. Obesity , stress and manner of coping up with stress are found to be similar in the father and the child. To manage stress  plan to decrease stress by relaxation techniques or increase tolerance to stress. Measures as meditation , positive thinking, cognitive therapy , improving skills, problem solving ,and time management skills are helpful.

Click to BuyThe other potential issues which influence health are the prevailing communicable  and non communicable diseases, malnutrition and bodily injuries . Lack of health care systems and access to quality health services is a major factor affecting the health of an individual. Majority of people in our country are unable to reach quality centres due to ignorance, economic conditions and fear of being ill treated at the higher centres.Diarrhoea accounts for one tenth deaths in children  below 5 yrs age. One fifth communicable diseases in our country are water borne . Recurrent  diarrhoea is attributed to non availability of safe drinking water and poor sanitation system. Half of the billion people in the world who defecate in the open live in our country.This is largely polluting the environment and helping in spread of disease.

Mental Health-has been defined as a state of well being in which an individual knows his potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life , can work productively and contribute to his community positively. It is not just the absence of mental illness. Mental health and physical health are interlinked.Physical activity determines your physical health.To be mentally healthy means that you are able to visualize self , cope with the unexpected events of life positively and manage stressful situations.You should have a sense of self worth  and  be emotional ly stable. October 10 is celebrated as the WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY.

Public health focuses on prevention and management of disease and injuries through surveillance and promotion of healthy behavior.

Occupational health is another sphere which has to be managed well . Provision of all basic facilities at the work place is a prerequisite. The employees should be allowed to work in a stress free environment .There should be no harassment on the place of work .Harassment  should be dealt with by proper cells at the site instantly.This step is essential specially for working women. Health hazards due to dust and trace elements in mines should be treated well.

Pillars are the basic structures on which optimal health rests. The base for health starts before the mother conceives. Health of the mother at the time of conceiving and during pregnancy will determine the health of the child.

Pillar 1:

Reduce the risk factors which are responsible for causing disease. A risk factor is any lifestyle factor or genetic characteristic that increases the likelihood of developing the disease.Smoking predisposes an individual to develop lung cancer.Diet and exercise are the two other factors which lead to inflammation and chronic disease. A genetic inheritance predisposes one to have the disease but external factors can modify the disease expression .Omega 3 fatty acids, zinc, vitamins D and E  in the diet reduce the production of enzymes responsible for causing inflammation. Exercise and behavior can also affect the gene expression and reduces the inflammation .

Pillar 2:

Diet-Most of the food that we eat attacks the gut causing inflammation and thus impairing the immune system. Our gut is the first line of defense having 100 billion microbes to guard us. Upto 95%serotonin is produced in the gut .Serotonin is also present and produced in the brain. In the gut it regulates the bowel movements. It also plays part in regulating the appetite while having meals. In the brain it regulates the mood, anxiety and gives the feeling of happiness . Serotonin also has a role in clotting of blood. Poor gut health causes reflux , low energy , mood instability and sleep problems.

An individual should consume a balanced diet having 45-65% carbohydrates ,20-35% fats , 10-35% proteins. The diet should also include sources of fibre.Simple diet prepared hygienically at home and stored properly should be eaten .Freshly cooked food is considered to be the best. Locally available vegetables and fruits should be eaten . It is not necessary to eat the expensive food items .Fruits should be eaten in their natural state . Cutting an apple into pieces also loses the nutrients .About 8 servings of fruits and vegetables should be taken daily.One serving is equivalent to half cup. Due to increase in  consumption of processed food , obesity is becoming an epidemic in many countries across the world.

Organic foods should  be consumed as they are free of the pesticides and herbicides. Orientation regarding consuming Organic foodstuffs is yet not developed in our country and so their availability is scarce. The chemicals present in the normally grown food stuffs cause inflammation in the gut and are harmful. Foodstuffs in our country are consumed after washing and disinfection .People should continue to eat them because the massive phytonutrient load in them overrides the harmful effects of the pesticides.Fruits and vegetables themselves  have  anti inflammatory effects. They are good sources of fiber, micro-nutrients (minerals , vitamins ,phytonutrients as lycopene). All micronutrients are present in  the food  eaten  but to maintain optimal health one has to take the supplements.Fat soluble antioxidant as Co- enzyme Q10 has to be taken as supplement because to fulfill the requirement from food will require consuming a large amount of fat. Poor food choices disturb the blood sugar hormones, hunger and circadian hormones and this becomes an obstacle in attaining optimal health.

One should emphasize on taking quality food stuffs without considering the calories consumed  and quantity of food  eaten. Focusing on these leads to failure. It is brought forth by some researchers that carbohydrates are bad, some say avoid fats if you want to be healthy. This is not correct because the body requires all the nutrients in adequate amounts , one has simply to chose what he should eat and what is to be avoided. Fats increasing the bad cholesterol should be avoided as the hydrogenated fats and trans fats.Saturated fats like butter and ghee can be taken , they are required for building the cell membranes and for functioning of the brain. The yellow portion of the egg should be eaten as it is full of nutrients.Refined carbohydrates as maida, processed foodstuffs and sweet corn syrups should all be avoided.Fruits and vegetables are full of micronutrients and fibre , hence can be consumed freely.Eat all types of coloured fruits and vegetables .Nuts being rich in omega 3 fatty acids should also be consumed.

Pillar 3:

Exercise-Move your body. Movement is nutrition like food and is required for the proper functioning of the body.Our body has been programmed for movement.In the earlier days the activity level of people was high as they moved from one place to other by walking as the means of travelling were less. These people did not have any problems regarding obesity as the people are facing now . This is because people are adopting the sedentary lifestyle which is taking them away from nature.

People avoid exercise as they consider that this can be done by going to the gymnasiums or by purchasing the costly equipments. No, this can be done by activities of your daily life. Any sport , hobby  as  dancing , swimming and walking are all exercises which help us in accomplishing our goal.Exercises of daily living help in preventing inflammation and so chronic diseases.Some examples are –

a.Take the stairs instead of the elevators by cutting a few floors.

b.Carry your baggage instead of rolling it.

c.Get down one step before your destination when travelling in a bus.

d.Take a walk with spouse or play with your children.

The foundation of human movement is walking , so start with walking.Walking , running , swimming and cycling are all cardio exercises. Later on resistance exercises as weight lifting and pushups can be done.

Yoga is an ancient practice. It is common in the East and has been linked to Hinduism .It is about assuming various postures to assist in meditation. Yoga increases flexibility and so improves health. Now it has been adopted globally as is evident from the fact that the world celebrated the WORLD YOGA DAY on 21 June 2015.

Adopt the DWYLT schedule .exercise according to your liking  instead of following a particular strict regime.

Movement makes us go with nature . The employees are asked to move about during their workhours  every 1-2 hours . Sitting for a long time predisposes them to chronic diseases. Ailments are the signals of movement hunger that arrive in response to poor quality movement. When humans are compared to animals it has been found that  animals are healthier.

This is because animals move about , eat real food, sleep properly and face acute stress only when attacked. Humans move very less , eat processed food, sleep less and face chronic stress.

Pillar 4:

Spirituality-mind spirit and positive attitude-Whenever one achieves success it is attributed to two main components-a.psychology and b.all other factors.

Success is 80%psychology and 20%everything else as your efforts , persistence and diligence. Having negative thoughts , toxic beliefs alive grudges and pending irrational desires prevent one from achieving success.One should learn to hear to his conscience, evaluate his worth and be able to master his own self. These will propel the individual to escape from the above negativities. Exercising gratitude , knowing the moral values and living upto them helps in understanding , respecting and recognizing the uniqueness of self.

Happy and hopeful people are healthier than those harbouring negativism. Mental health and physical health are closely woven.If one is poor it impacts the other. Depression , anxiety ,anger damages the physical health.Keeping a positive attitude and faith in the almighty definitely helps in achieving optimal health.

Pillar 5:

Adequate rest-A few decades back people did sufficient physical activity at work place may be in the fields or the offices.  They walked down or cycled to the offices where in the absence of elevators went up by the stairs. The day’s activity was sufficient for burning the calories and staying fit. Returning home they had their meals and being exhausted took 9-9.5 hours of sleep daily.

Industrialization and technology have reduced the sleeping hours of the individuals to 6 hrs. or even less. Young guys are on duty all 24 hours taking phone calls and emails, have no leisure or home time for themselves. It seems that the office moves with them to their homes after the scheduled hours. This is a major factor of bringing stress to the guys who in turn to manage the family reduce their hours of rest .

During rest hours and whilst sleeping biochemical changes occur in our body .These are beneficial to the body and help in maintain health. Less sleep hours are associated with decreased LEPTIN and increased GHRELIN levels ,both are responsible for increasing the appetite and thereby compulsive eating whilst waking. Sleep influences our thinking abilities , immune function and sugar metabolism. Chronic sleep deprivation leads to inflammation in our body. This also leads to obesity . Optimal amount of sleep for an individual is 7-8 hours every night.

Pillar 6:

Healthy environment , medical care and good hygiene –If the environment in the surroundings is full of green plantation with minimal air pollution it becomes very easy for you to maintain good health.WIFI facility in the surroundings or in your own home is also impairing your health. Researchers say  that cell phones , internet should not be used before sleeping . Switch off the wifi and keep the mobile phones away from you in the other room when you sleep.

Air pollution is associated with diseases like bronchial asthma , upper respiratory diseases and cancer.New houses can be full of chemical gases , may smell of the paints used both of which are harmful.

Water supplied is contaminated with industrial wastes which have gained access through the ground water. At times the sewer lines and water pipe lines become disrupted and water gets polluted . Many times discarded drugs show up in the water.Bottled water is available and is certified to be pure but the plastic bottles may be hazardous.Some of the plastic bottles are made from a chemical called BISPHENOLA(BPA).This has been shown to increase the risk of breast and prostate cancer in rats.

Proper good hygiene helps one in maintaining good health.Monogamy prevents one from many diseases.

It has been observed that people do not avail the services of the specialists and trained personals. They go behind the advertised products and cheap medical treatments.Community persons create scare  of doctors in the weaker section of the society regarding the heavy charges. Mistrust of the practitioners leads the people into the hands of the quacks who are unable to give the proper treatment. The common man is bullied by giving wrong anti aging treatment in the form of hormones which is  a cause for producing inflammation. It is very necessary for the community leaders to see that they have proper quality health centres in their locality which are accessible to all.

It is advised that one runs on the above pillars.There are no standards which one should achieve . You must try your best to live a healthy life .Perfectionism should not be the desired goal.If you desire it the only thing which you will get is STRESS.Disordered balance between our body and the food eaten is harmful.Failing health leads to failing life and vice versa is always true.For getting a body you love you should adopt measures to make more deposits than withdrawals and stay out of debt.You should eat the right food which will help in removing your fat deposits.Dysfunctional life leads to disorganized environment which brings stress and a bad tiring lifestyle.Whilst coping with stress you take to habits like smoking, drinking alcohol , eating sugar all of which will disorganize your health.