Here we are finally. No, this won’t be the final part of the series, I simply mean that we have finally managed to arrive at Part 6 in our ongoing series on the Dimensions of Health. In this series we are exploring the concept of health in order to understand it better. Hopefully greater knowledge will empower changes resulting in improved experience of health for readers and many others whom you will reach.

Those following the series will recall that we are currently exploring the physical dimension of health. In Part 5 we considered 10 basic determinants of physical health and very briefly noted the importance of the first two: fresh air and pure water. We will equally briefly consider the remaining eight from the list and we’ll attempt as many as possible in Part 6 today.

Obviously all 10 determinants of physical health deserve much more detailed consideration than we can provide in this introductory series. In the coming weeks we hope to provide that additional information within this site. We will also detail the roles played by the physical environment and certain genetic "givens" in determining physical health, but for now let’s keep it simple.

So, getting down to the task, our third factor is measured direct sunlight. This is a vitally important and much neglected dimension. Excessive direct sunlight can lead to significant solar radiation damage to the skin, resulting in various problems ranging from sunburn, through premature aging to skin cancers.

Inadequate exposure results in vitamin D deficiency and may also disturb brain biochemistry leading to some forms of depression. The latter can be corrected with exposure to very bright artificial lights and the former can be corrected with oral vitamin D supplementation, but these are both "make do" solutions. There is no substitute for the real thing when it comes to sunlight exposure.

Interestingly, the Anti-Cancer Council in Australia is in a quandary. Some members are adamant that sun protection programs must be maintained and extended (chiefly to protect from melanomas) while members researching vitamin D argue that it has gone too far. Too much avoidance of direct sun actually significantly contributes to cancer development since vitamin D is essential for cancer prevention. Remember, measured means you must get some, but not too much.

Nutritious foods offering all the required nutrients is next. This is quite a complex area that we obviously can’t explore deeply in this series. We have argued elsewhere that it is simply not possible to obtain an optimal nutritional intake from whole foods available today. This means that quality nutritional supplemets are necessary.

The nutrients that you manage to assimilate, that is, consume, digest, absorb and finally use at the cellular level, are literally what you are made of, so deficiencies here most certainly place your physical health at risk. Remember that deficiencies are rarely the gross ones associated with disease states such as scurvy or beri beri. It is the sub-clinical and typically ongoing nature of one or more minor deficiencies that ultimately causes problems.

The human body has truely astonishing capacity to engage in self-repair and healing but these functions cannot work optimally without optimal nutrition. A fully complete understanding of exactly what optimum nutrition is simply doesn’t exist. Perhaps it never will. A tremendous amount is known however, and it is disturbing to see so much misinformation on the topic, especially when it comes from supposedly responsible health authorities.

One thing to bear in mind is that supplements are not an alternative to a quality whole-foods diet. Many poor dietary practices in western society directly result in health problems, largely due to excessive processing. Some foods are actually anti-nutrients, that is, they result in a net loss from the body of nutrient value. Since many whole foods, such as fruit and vegetables for example, contain additional factors we have not yet isolated and identified, they cannot be fully replaced by supplements.

Shelter is our next determinant. This is a factor we tend to take for granted until something happens that results in sufficient exposure to make us uncomfortable. Suddenly we find motivation to seek shelter. In the absence of shelter we can become exposed to excessive amounts of such things as heat, cold, moisture, sunlight, sound, dust, smoke, lightning, and so on.

Such exposure can result in trauma (or damage) of varying degrees. It may be acute (sudden onset and typically short term) or chronic (lasting a prolonged period). In mild cases it may not be too serious but in severe cases it can be lethal. In mild and long term cases it may result in insideous wearing down of immune function, resulting in indirect or consequential problems.

Closely realted to shelter is safety from physical harm. This tends to involve protection from assorted human-made risks. Whether it is, for example, provision of anti-slip flooring and grab-rails to avoid falling injuries or teaching road safety to pedestrians and drivers, the objective is to help avoid the physical damage that results from safety breaches.

Of course not all safety risks are from the human-made environment. Provision of safety rails at lookouts near cliff faces and warning signs for would-be swimmers during dangerous periods on beaches, and countless other examples, make it clear that safety is a very large issue.

Well, I think that might be enough for Part 6. Let’s cover the remaining items from our list in Part 7. I haven’t forgotten about physical fitness, I just seem to have been overly ambitious in suggesting it would also be covered today. To be safe, let’s say that we’ll cover it in the next Part or the one immediately following it. Sorry about the delay.

So, how did you go with your homework?

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.