Ideal health or healthfulness for us as individuals is the ability to live long and healthy, preventing disease and if disease does occur, being able to treat and control it as early as and in the best way possible.
While the rest of the stakeholders (governments, doctors, hospitals, insurance and pharma companies) can help you be healthful, they can only do so much. The rest is up to you.
Covid-19 is a classic example. Doctors can treat you when you are sick, the authorities can help prevent spread by mandating masks, lockdowns and distancing and can protect you by providing vaccines. But, you can remain healthy only if you stay current with knowledge (atmagyan), protect yourself by wearing masks, stay away from potentially dangerous situations (atmasurakshit) and take the vaccine to prevent the disease or reduce its severity, if it does occur (atmanivaaran), thus becoming self-reliant (atmanirbhar), “self” and “you” including those around you, your immediate close family, friends, mentors and people you trust implicitly and unconditionally. Only by applying these 4 atmas can you hope to be and remain atmasvasth (healthy and healthful on your own).
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This is not just true of Covid-19 times. To live long, healthy and to be healthful, we need to look after 5 major issues that include
- Avoiding a heart-attack (myocardial infarct) and stroke (brain attack)
- Not falling and if falling, not fracturing
- Preventing dementia and loss of cognition
- Preventing cancer and/or detecting it early
- Preventing getting infected, wherever it is possible to do so
To avoid these 5 major problems, we need to do 13 things
- Reduce the pollution in our lives (air, noise, digital)
- Understand and reduce our cardiovascular risk including detecting and managing diabetes and hypertension
- Move, move, move - in all forms (walk, run, strength training, yoga, etc)
- Eat sensibly (no fad diets, more fruits, reasonable intake of calories) and drink clean water
- Sleep well - 7-9 hours
- Screen for cancer where possible
- Take vaccines
- Address deficiencies - vitamins, iron, protein
- Improve balance, and not fall and not fracture if you fall
- Maintain good hygiene, including dental, vision, hearing and time
- Meditate and keep the mind active
- Reduce, control or eliminate addictions
- Manage the logistics
The main job of clinical doctors is to treat. Hardly any doctor has the time to sit individually with you to make sure you live long, healthy and be healthful. The state (government, insurance companies, etc) will only look after the majority of its population, using the lowest common denominator (clean water, vaccines, some laws such as mandating seat-belts, banning smoking, etc) that it can afford, based on how poor or rich the country is and how vibrant its disease prevention ethos is.
The only person who can make a difference to your own health is you.
That means knowing from sites like this or similar ones what it means to live long, healthy and how to go about implementing those steps (atmagyan), then applying this knowledge either on your own or with the help of mentors and even doctors (when you need medication) to protect yourself from disease (atmasurakshit) and to prevent disease (atmanivaaran), thus becoming self-reliant (atmanirbhar) and not abdicating the responsibility of your health and healthfulness to doctors, hospitals and governments and Gods, religious heads, babas and gurus.
This does not mean you don’t need doctors and hospitals. If you find that your LDL-C levels remain high despite moving and eating sensibly, you need to speak to your family physician or cardiologist to start statins. If your blood pressure is not under control despite non-medicinal steps, you need the help of your doctor to start treatment. If your screening mammogram shows a problem, doctors are needed to help you navigate the situation. If you do have a stroke, you need to get to a good hospital in time.
But otherwise, as this Zen koan drawn by Morparia explains, it is for you and yours to learn to be atmanirbhar so that you can be atmasvasth (healthy and healthful), especially in a country where you are told to bang utensils and light candles to drive away a virus and asked to eat dark chocolate and take medicines like Coronil and ivermectin to prevent and treat that same virus.
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A slightly different version of this article was posted in the TOI
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