Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What is Good Health

Let's look to the someone who is not in good health, Bill, a forty five years old business equipment salesman who is in hospital recovering from his first heart attack. Bill is typical of many men in our culture who have spent much of their life pursuing the American dream. He married in his early twenties, had several children soon after, and has spent the last two decades striving for financial security and career advancement - external rewards that he has always thought would bring him inner satisfaction.

Bill future is not assured; in fact, his physician has told him that he has quite a considerable chance of suffering another, potentially fatal, heart attack. As she has noted, Bill's family history contains genetic risk factors (his father died of heart disease when he was fifty five). Environmental risk factors have also increased Bill's chances of developing heart disease, since he lives and works in a city with high levels of air pollution. And his chance of heart disease has also been increased by a number of lifestyle risk factors- factors that she now recommends he try to minimize by making some big changes in his everyday living habits.

  • Bill never considered the possibility of having heart attack. He has always been athletically inclined, and even though he has put on a good deal of extra weight over the years. Now, however, his physician has advised him to lose at least 10 pounds over the next two months and to find time in his busy schedule for a regular exercise.
  • Smoking at least one pack of cigarettes a day has been part of Bill's lifestyle for the last twenty years. Smoking helps him relax when he feels tense, gets him going in the morning, and makes meals taste better and besides all his friends smoke. His physician has advised him to stop smoking completely and immediately.
  • Drinking fairly heavily with friends and at meals with clients has been pleasurable for Bill, and it has helped him "fit in". Now, his physician advised to cut down his alcohol consumption drastically.
  • Bill's life, with its long hours on the road and its high pressure selling situations, has contained much of the stress that our society associates with the quest for success. This stress has not all been negative. Like other good salesmen, Bill thrives under pressure, and he has been energized by the push to make sales quotas and reach company goals. But now he has been advised to reduced the stress in his life.
Health for him includes many different aspects, and physical health is only one, he is also concerned with how he sees himself and how he thinks others see him. He is a complex creature, as all of us are, and limiting our attention to his physical problems greatly oversimplifies his heart attack.

But what about emotional health, and what about the social aspects of his life? If Bill can't function as well as he has in the past in his job or among his friends and colleagues, he will be upset; his family will feel the strain, too. Bill's problem is not easy one to solve.
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