There are many aspects of our health and our lives that are completely out of our control. Whether or not we not we get sick or become disabled from chronic disease may well be due to a roll of the genetic dice, or a result of something in our environment we can’t control. We can’t fret about things we can’t change.
Despite this, there are things many of us can do to increase our odds of living a long, healthy life. We pretty much know what they are, although the details are hotly debated. Don’t smoke or drink too much alcohol. Exercise. Eat nutritious real food. Get enough sleep. Go to the doctor regularly for preventive care. Etc. Can you do these things that will help keep you well? If you can, that is excellent. They are not easy, and they are harder for some than others.
In this end of year time of reflection and gratitude, I feel so lucky to have some advantages that are helping me to live a healthy lifestyle. Education and know-how. Time to exercise, and safe places in my community to do so. Support from the people around me. A little extra money to spend on things like gym memberships and fresh local produce. Health insurance. These advantages aren’t absolutely necessary for healthful living, but they help. A whole lot.
In this country, if you are in a lower income bracket, are less educated, and/or are a member of a minority group, you are considerably more likely to suffer from poor health, especially chronic disease. If you are interested in exploring this issue, there are a lot of good resources out there. I highly recommend you watch a documentary called Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making us Sick? You can find that documentary as well as many interesting things to read at unnaturalcauses.org. And here’s a good fact sheet from the American Public Health Association: APA Health Disparities Primer. The infographic below, which just begins to tell the story, comes to us courtesy of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, another excellent source of research and information about inequality and health.
The circumstances of our lives have an enormous influence on our ability to make healthy choices. If you are working on living a healthy lifestyle, you should feel really good about that – it is an achievement! But do also take stock of the people, places, and conditions in your life that support that achievement. Here’s to all our health in the new year.