Friday, December 30, 2011

The Arts of Healthiness

Some people think I am against conventional medicines and techniques, and in favour of alternative medicines and techniques.  Not.

I am student of science, and of the arts. I believe in a scientific and an artistic approach to the studies of healthiness.

This diagram on our planet represents the layers of our healthiness, from our genetics to the highest levels of our communities.  Each body is comprised of the layers of the hierarchy of health; genetics, nutrients, cells, etc to the entire body. Each person is more than their body, having a spirit and existing in many communities.  Each of the layers is hierarchical, built on the layers below.  Each layer is greater than the sum of the parts below. All health is connected. Each layer can have an effect, positive or negative, on the health of layers above or below.

Illness is represented by red spots. Illness is isolated by its causes, although can affect all health areas. Illness might exist in a single layer, or cross layers.

Healthiness is larger than illness and disease.  Health is about the whole being, and includes illnesses. We all have some illness. Illness can exist in a single layer, be caused by a single factor, or may exist in many layers and might be caused by many  interacting factors. 

Our medical systems are very sophisticated, with surgical precision, not just in surgery, and scientific rigor. They are designed to search for illness, to identify illnesses, and to search for causes of illness and for treatments.

But they don't search for health. Strange? or normal? Health is all around, but we don't see it.  We are so busy looking for illness - that we can't see health for disease. We don't search for causes of healthiness. The tools we use to measure illness are very sophisticated.  We can use MRI to peer into the body and spot tumors before the cause any problems.  We have standardized tests for blood and tissues to search for signs of illness. The tools we use to measure healthiness are very rudimentary. This is because our understanding of health is very rudimentary.  It is also because the search for illness facilitates and forces a focus of attention.  If we are searching for cancer, we can look for spots that look like cancer. We focus our attention on those spots.

In the diagram above, you can search for illness in the red spots.  Of course illness in your body is not hi-lighted in red, but it stands out from the norm.  Our scientific processes search for something that is 'not normal' when we search for illness.

If you are searching for health, in the diagram above - where will you look?  Health is everywhere.  Even in the places where there is illness.  It is everywhere, and nowhere to be found. Because we assume that 'normal' is healthy - we neglect to measure healthiness. Each state of healthiness has a range that can be measured and should be measured to facilitate healthy targets.

We need to develop powerful scientific tools to understand and measure health.  And when we do - we will gain a much better understanding of illness.

There is a potential danger in our search for health.  The fields of illness, diagnosis, treatment, etc. have been doctopolized (doctor monopolized) by our medical systems.  It is illegal for a non-doctor to diagnose illness, to design, implement, produce or sell treatments, or in any way to 'practice medicine'.  This monopoly is created and upheld on the theory that it minimizes risk to patients. But it has been extended so far that it increases risk for some patients.

In our studies of health - we must not make this same mistake.  We must make it better, not worse.  My blog is about health freedom.  I believe in medical freedom as well.  Illness is a subset of health. Medicine is a subset of healthicine.

We need an open investigation of health and healthiness to understand and improve individual health and health of our communities. We need to apply our science to learn about health.  But not just science.  One of the problems with our medical systems is 'over scientification'. A reliance on science's ability to separate right from wrong. To avoid the wide grey areas we don't understand.  Health exists in the areas we don't understand. Our reliance on 'clinical studies' of illness and treatment has been extended so far that it is no longer science.  Medical science has become dogma, not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from or challenged - even when it is clearly deficient or incorrect.

We need to develop a science of health and healthiness.  And we need to go beyond that.  Science gives us techniques and tools of measurement.  Science gives us frameworks to understand and to develop further understandings.  But the structure of science limits the boundaries of a search. Science focuses our attention, but limits our view. We don't want to limit the boundaries of our search for healthiness.

We need to study and explore the arts of health.   Individually and collectively.

Science might, someday, tell us what nutrients are essential to health, and what amounts of each are optimal.  But nutrients compliment and conflict with each other. We need people to create and develop foods, meals, diets and supplements that help us to consume healthy nutrients in a healthy fashion. Then we can use science to measure the results.

Artists are the people who create things. 

There are many arts of health.  Music creation, expression, collaboration, and enjoyment are arts of healthiness.  When we are ill, music helps us heal.  When we are well, music makes us better.  When we sing, we feel. Dance is the art of movement - the art of body health. When we create our own dance, we improve our own health. When we dance, we heal. All movement is dance, the dance of life. The creation of dance takes our health to a higher plane. Drawing, painting, designing, writing -- creating; creating is art. Creating is healthy. We need to move our communities from consumption to creation.  To move our focus from productivity to creativity. From commerce to arts. For the health of it.

When we create, we are creating health. We need to create the science and art of healthiness. And then, maybe, we can truly learn the arts of medicines. As long as medicine remains solely the field of technicians - it will continually fail to reach our highest expectations.

We want our children to create beauty.  We want them to be artists - to rise above the mundane creations of builders, factory workers and technicians. We want them to live a better, healthier life.  We are all children.

yours in health,
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Monday, December 19, 2011

I won't make it out to work today, I've got two colds and a flu.

I won't make it out to work today,
I've got two colds and a flu.
I'm sniffing and sneezing,
My head's all stuffed up.
And now I'm hot, and cold too.

My body is aching,
My bones they are creaking,
I'm barfing and running to poo.
I can't make it out to work today,
I've got two colds and a flu.
(and I think I'm hung-over too...)

Did you ever have two colds at once?  How would you know? There are over 100 different types of virus that can cause a cold... Surely it is possible to get a cold, and then to get another cold within a few hours, or days, or even a week.

I always wondered about the folk wisdom:

"with proper treatment, you can cure a cold in 7 days,
if you leave it alone, it will go away in a week".

But sometimes a cold lasts 10 days, or two weeks, or maybe longer.  Maybe a 10 day cold is really a 7 day cold and another 7 day cold on day 3 of the first day?  Maybe a three week cold is actually three weak colds?

Maybe it's unfortunate that colds are so common, and so easily cured that few have noticed 'two colds at once'?

And what if you have a cold, and then you get the flu?  Or if you have the flu, and then you get the cold?  Can you have two flus (that doesn't even look like a word) at once?

How many different kind of flu are out there at once? Flu tends to go in waves, epidemics, so in general there is only one wave passing through - although it is possible to get two if you are in a flu area when another wave comes thru.  I think two flu infections are more serious than two colds.

Which is worse, a cold and a flu?  Or a flu and a cold?

No matter which comes first, I'm suspect it weakens your resistance to the other.

But maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe the first one puts your immune system on high alert - and therefore second is weaker.  I'm not sure I want to volunteer for this type of medical study.....

Take care this Christmas season, to your health, tracy
Personal Health Freedom

Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

ps. I'm not sick. I had this silly poem running around in my head.  And I retired 3 years ago, so I don't have to go out to work today, although there are lot of Christmas chores. I just had to share...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Measurement of Healthiness Part 1: Measurements, Summaries and Goals

How can we measure healthiness?

Healthiness must be measured comprehensively, using the hierarchy of health. We need to measure many components in each layer in the hierarchy: genetics, nutrients, cells, tissues, organs, systems, body, mind, spirits and communities, to create a useful measure of healthiness.

There are many different types of 'health measurement', some of which are more appropriate, more accurate, and more effective than others.

Direct vs Indirect Measurements
It is silly to measure brightness by searching shadows, and superficial to measure healthiness by searching sicknesses.

Health measurements should measure healthiness as directly as possible. Resting heart rate is a direct measurement of healthiness. Heart rate after exercise is a measurement of strength, not a measurement of healthiness.  Erratic heart rate is a measure of illness, not a direct measurement of healthiness, although it can be a useful indirect measurement of healthiness.

Illness and death measurements and statistics are indirect measurements of health, and should be viewed with caution. Death statistics and illness statistics might measure healthiness of a community, or not.  Improvements in medicine can help people live longer without actually increasing their healthiness. Improvements in, or changes to diagnostic protocols can increase illness statistics without actually decreasing healthiness.

Tests against a Scale vs Binary Measurements

Scales of healthiness are more useful than yes/no answers. A effective healthiness scale clearly identifies and quantifies the grey areas that exist in all aspects of health. It is much more powerful, from a health point of view, to say 'your pulse rate is 10 percent above your optimum'. Of course it is extremely difficult to identify optimum health measurements for different groups of people and more difficult for individuals. Difficult should not stop us from trying.

Tests that provide results on a scale, need independent scoring for variations above and below the optimum goal. If your pulse target is 50 beats per minute - and your heart rate is 50 bpm below the target - you are dead.  But if your heart rate is 50 above the target, it is still within the 'acceptable' range from an illness point of view. You could easily be alive with a heart rate well above 100 bpm.

Objective over Subjective

Health measurements that are more objective are preferred over subjective measurements, although both may be relevant. A measurement of your pulse rate by a professional, even by an amateur, is a more accurate and useful measurement than asking - does your heart seem to beat faster than it should?

Targets should be Health Oriented, not Illness Avoidance Oriented

As discussed in a prior blog post: Are You Measuring Illness or Healthiness? a measurement of your pulse that is intended to detect illness uses a different target than a healthiness measurement.  If you are not ill, your resting pulse might be somewhere in a wide range, from 60 to 100 beats per minute. The result of the illness test is binary - you are in the healthy range (healthy) or not (ill). A healthiness test, on the other hand, will have a target - which might be 50 beats per minute - and detect the amount of deviation from the health target - giving a result on a scale.

Avoid tests with Short Term Temporary Variations

A test of alertness is not a test of healthiness - it may be a test of how awake the subject is, or how much coffee or alcohol they have consumed in the last few hours. It is not a test of healthiness. A measurement of illness needs to know 'are you sick right now'.  A measurement of healthiness is more useful if it tells 'how healthy you are this month', ignoring the temporary, short term deviations. Resting pulse rate is more relevant than 'randomly tested pulse rate'.

Summary Measurements

Because the measurement of healthiness is in its infancy, we have not developed any techniques to summarize different measurements to create a healthiness profile for each layer in the hierarchy, nor a overall healthiness profile. As we learn to measure healthiness - we will learn which measurements more accurately represent overall healthiness, and which are less useful.  A fundamental goal for summary measurements is to ensure that the summary for each layer is on a scale of zero to 100 percent.

Multiple Goals are Required

It is important that health scales, against which a measurement is compared, be as comprehensive as possible.  A measurement of Vitamin C consumption might compare the result of the measurement against the minimum RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance), the minimum RDI (Recommended Daily Intake), the maximum UL (Upper Limit) as well as optimal recommendations from various sources.  At this time - there are no officially recognized optimal rates for consumption of Vitamin C for healthiness. We must rely on the best available sources - and not throw up our hands in resignation.

Each person must have the freedom to make their own decisions, and even adjust their own goals, based on information available from multiple sources.  It will be valuable to compare analysis using different sources of target goals.

Presentation of Results

Analysis of the results of a series of healthiness measurements will require sophisticated techniques, that change as we learn more about healthiness.  It is essential that healthiness measurements be stored in a computer system so that they can easily be brought forward and re-analyzed as theory develops.  Let's look at a hypothetical subject: Alice.

Alice has many aspects of her healthiness measured today, and scores calculated for each layer in the HH (Hierarchy of Health). The measurements - are clearly defined. The calculated scores are based on current knowledge about healthiness.

In two years, Alice might have her healthiness tested again. There may be more measurements taken, and some might be no longer considered relevant - therefore not measured. The scoring algorithm will have changed as well. Over time, our knowledge about healthiness will change - but the measurements made today are historical and do not change.

When Alice receives her results, two years from today she will receive a fresh analysis of her healthiness at each level in the hierarchy - and an overall healthiness result.

She will also want to have a comparison of her new results with today's results - based on the new analysis model.  Of course the new model will may have different measurements - some new and possibly some missing.

An effective comparison must compare the measurements that are the same, and if possible extrapolate some measurements that are missing - and then prepare a comparative analysis based on the measurements that are common. This is clearly a job for a computer program - which will also evolve over time as we learn more about meta-healthiness.

Measurement of Healthiness - Current Status

It is clear that we do not measure healthiness in any comprehensive fashion today.  It may be a long time before we develop efficient and effective techniques to measure healthiness. We do have some individual measurements of healthiness, but even those are suspect and may be very poor quality. We have not yet analyzed any health measurements to determine if they are effective in measuring healthiness.

Health Freedom

I believe we might never have absolute answers about health and healthiness.  There will, and should always be, conflicting ideas and opinions.  Each individual must make their own decisions and must be free to make decisions affecting their healthiness. We have much room for our knowledge to grow.

yours in health, tracy
Personal Health Freedom

ps. If you enjoy my posts, please share - and you might LIKE my facebook page

Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Are you measuring Illness, or Healthiness? Healthiness does not exist.

To be ill is to be afflicted with a specific sickness, disease or other health condition.
An illness is a specific sickness, disease or other health condition.

To be sick is to be afflicted with a specific illness, disease or other health condition.
A sickness is a specific illness, disease or other health condition.

Healthy is enjoying vigor and health of body, mind or spirit.  (Merriam-Webster)

according to Merriam-Webster, the word 'healthiness' does not exist - you are re-directed to 'healthy' in the online version of the dictionary. Similarly, Wikipedia does not have an entry for healthiness - it simply re-directs you to healthy.

Healthiness needs to be defined if we are to measure it.

Healthiness is a specific incidence, or measurement, of health. Overall healthiness is a summary of measurements of health. 

There are another words that may cause confusion.  Ill-health and unhealthiness, for example. What do they mean? What should they mean? I will deliberately avoid these words when possible.  Ill-health is actually, according to Merriam-Webster "some disease is present, but".  It is a state of illness, not a state of health.  Unhealthiness is also, according to Merriam-Webster "not in good health, sickly or diseased". e.g. Both words can be replaced with ill or illness - of varying degrees.

We are very familiar with some specific illness/health measurements, most notably, the four vital signs - body temperature, pulse rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate.

In each case there is a healthy range - and two unhealthy ranges, deficient and excessive. A measurement of your vital signs can be a measurement of your healthiness - or your unhealthiness.

How can we tell if we are measuring healthiness or illness? We find what we are looking for.

When scientists were studying light, trying to understand the behavior of light, they found an interesting result.  There were two competing theories.  Light consists of particles.  Light consists of waves. Scientists found that, if they tested for particles - they were able to prove that light consisted of particles.  And when they tested for waves - they were able to prove that light consisted of waves.

Then it got more complicated. Scientists were able to design a door that only let one particle of light through at once.  Then they tested for waves - and waves were found.

They concluded that whether light acts like a particle or a wave - the nature of light depends on what you measure, not on a fundamental property of light.

And so it is with healthiness and illness. If we are searching for health, we measure healthiness. If we are searching for ills - we measure illness.

Almost every time someone measures your temperature, temperature, blood pressure, or respiration - they are checking for illness.   If we ask someone to check our health status - and they start by testing our temperature, our pulse, etc... We might assume they are checking for illness.

In isolation, a single measurement, or even all four measurements provide minimal information about your level of health - although each might, even in isolation, provide significant information or indication about your level of sickness.

If you are healthy, all four measurements; pulse, respiration, blood pressure, and temperature might be in the 'normal range' - you will have no useful information about your level of healthiness. If you are sick - one or more of these measurements may be outside of the normal range, indicating illness.

Specific healthiness measurements may indicate illness or sickness, suggesting further investigation and diagnosis - but specific measurements do not effectively measure healthiness.

An interesting detail about these four measurements is that they are compared to 'normal ranges', not to 'healthy ranges' nor to 'optimal ranges'. These so called 'normal ranges', are 'ranges that indicate no illness has been detected'.

Healthy ranges, and optimal ranges have not been identified - and it may be that optimal ranges are different, narrower or broader than the normal range - optimal ranges have not been studied scientifically for individuals nor groups.

Let's look at Resting Pulse Rate in more detail. A normal adult pulse rate ranges from 60 to 100 bpm.  This might lead you to assume, incorrectly, that the optimal rate is the mid-point between 60 and 100, e.g. about 80 bpm.

Actually, lower 'normal' measurements, for all four vital signs, indicate healthier status than higher 'normal' measurements - when we are measuring healthiness. Athletes have a normal pulse rate much lower than 'normal adults'.  Athletes however, put their focus on strength, and in competitions on 'peak performance' which may actually be detrimental to overall healthiness.

It is very difficult to identify an 'optimal pulse rate' for the general population - and many qualifiers might be required when applying this rate to individual persons. e.g. It might depend on height, weight, blood pressure, an even 'size of the heart'.

How might we measure health? How might we measure 'overall healthiness'?

Like the scientists searching for waves, or particles, we must know what we are searching for.

If we are searching for illness - we will not measure healthiness. We will not find healthiness - we will only find illness or 'normal' e.g. 'no illness'.

The way to measure healthiness - is to ensure that our goal is healthiness.  If our goal is the elimination of disease or illness - we need to measure illness.

When our goal is optimization of health - we will measure healthiness.  When we suspect illness - we can switch our goals back to measuring and fighting illness.

When we are healthy - our goal should be to measure, and to improve our healthiness.

Actually, we need to measure healthiness and illness, both - throughout our lives. It is important to measure our illness - even when we think we are healthy, with prevention as our objective.  Similarly, it is important to measure our healthiness when we are ill - to determine the most effective treatments.

But we should not confuse the measurement of illness with the measurement of healthiness. Even the exact same measurement - pulse for example, will give different information and recommendations, depending on our goal - optimization of healthiness vs detection of illness.

A measurement of pulse from an illness point of view might detect a rapid pulse, in an emergency situation. If your illness pulse is too high, further investigation is required. You may need some medication and relaxation to lower your pulse. Or perhaps you have lost blood and need an injection of fluids.

A measurement of pulse from a healthiness point of view might observe that your pulse is high, that it could be lower. If your health pulse is to high, exercise might be recommended to reduce your pulse, by increasing your healthiness.

The illness researcher (medical doctor) detects rapid pulse - recommends calmness, further investigation and possibly treatment.  A healthiness researcher measures rapid pulse and recommends exercise. Almost exactly opposite recommendations - based on different measurements of pulse, which detected - 'rapid pulse'.  Note: the medical, or illness definition of 'rapid pulse' is a different, higher number, than the healthiness definition of 'rapid pulse'.

Our current measurements of illness are very sophisticated. Our current measurements of health are of very poor quality - almost non-existent.  Our measurements of illness can be summarized, creating meta-information, to distinguish between many different diseases, and variations of disease.  Our measurements of healthiness are seldom summarized to create useful meta-information. The field of medicine is very well developed.  The field of health is just in its infancy.

We need to measure healthiness, to optimize our health. 

yours in health,
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Personal Health Freedom

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Are the richest people the healthiest people?

You have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of healthiness. Should you have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of the 1 percent. Will it improve your health - if you improve your personal wealth?

Are the 1 percent wealthiest people also the healthiest 1 percent? It's an interesting question.

You might think that people who are very wealthy would want to use that wealth to improve their health.  Maybe it's true.

Are they healthier?  There is no evidence that the wealthiest 1 percent are any healthier than the rest of us.  There two reasons why they might never be the healthiest.

Let's suppose you are a member of the 1 percent wealthiest in your country - and you want to know if you are also a member of the 1 percent healthiest.

Who do you ask? What test(s) can you take?  Where can you go to find an answer? Who can reliably measure your health - and tell you if you are in the top 1 percent?  No-one.  Nowhere.

Your doctor might say something like 'you are a picture of health', 'you are as healthy as someone 5 or 10 years younger', or 'you are very healthy, but you need to quit smoking'. Do these measurements actually mean anything?  Do they have any scientific validity?  No.  We don't measure health.  If you are sick - you are not healthy.  Otherwise, you are healthy.  Our health measurements are, for the most part, binary.  Yes or no.  You are healthy, or not.

The first reason you cannot be the healthiest is a technical reason. We don't measure healthiness.  Therefore, there is no scientific evidence. There is no scientifically accepted technique, not even a scientific prototype technique for measuring overall health. So, we can't tell if any individual, or any income group, is healthier.  We might assume that the poorest people are less healthy - and it make sense to assume.  But assumptions can be wrong.  We need to measure. We do have some measurements for individual components of health - but there is no agreement, no research into which items are most important to healthiness.  And there's the medical vs health issue.  Most so called 'health measurements' are actually measurements of 'illness'.

We measure sickness.  We measure illness and then extrapolate, under the assumption that people who are less sick are more healthy. This can lead to useful, but also to ridiculous analyses. The World Health Organization, for the most part, measures illness.  The closest their statistics come to measuring health are the measurements of life expectancy.

Is a measurement of life expectancy a measurement of healthiness?  It provides useful information in the study of large groups, but for smaller groups, or individuals - it is almost useless. What use is a health measurement that can only be executed after you are dead?

Is it possible, you might ask, that members of the 1 percent are the healthiest - but we just don't measure it? Frankly, no. How do we know?  We know because we do measure illness - and the wealthiest 1 percent are not the 'least ill'.  Measurements of illness are NOT measurements of healthiness, but we can expect some correlation. eg. The people who are 'most healthy' should also be the people who are 'least ill'.  Richard Wilkinson has demonstrated that, among the richest nations, there is a huge spread in 'unhealthiness' - with Japan and Sweden having very low unhealthiness - while the UK and the US have very high levels of unhealthiness. He has concluded that this spread is largely due to unequal distribution of wealth.  And he has also demonstrated that in countries with huge wealth - and large inequities between wealth of individuals - even the wealthiest individuals have more unhealthiness.

The second reason that the 1 percent are probably not the healthiest is, "you can't buy healthiness". There is no need to ask "Does money make unhealthiness more bearable."  The question is moot.  Money should be used to create healthiness, not to make in more bearable.

If you look again at the hierarchy of health - it is clear that you can't buy healthiness with money. The layers in the hierarchy of health: genetics, nutrition, cells, tissues, organs, systems, body, mind, spirit and community. 

You can buy nutrients, which have potential to produce healthy cells, tissues, organs, systems, body and mind. But dollars will not help you to buy the healthiest nutrients - because we (our scientists) don't have any idea which are healthiest.  There is constant debate about which foods are healthiest, and which are the unhealthiest.

The debate about which foods are healthiest is often confused with similar debates about: which foods 'cure illness'; and which foods might 'prevent illness'; - both lists which might be very different foods than those which are healthiest. It makes sense that some 'unhealthy' foods might cure an 'illness', by killing it - and leaving you alive.

And if we do learn which foods are healthiest?  Maybe the best won't be to your taste.

Even if you consume the best nutrients, your body and mind need physical and mental stress (exercise) to help you attain optimal health. This takes time and energy - and you can't pay someone else to do it for you.  But more important - we (our scientists) don't know which exercises are best for your body, and which are best for your mind, nor the most appropriate frequency. And the theoretically best stresses - might not be your favorite.  Each person needs to find the best for themselves, with some guidance from science.

And what about spiritual healthiness?  Can you buy it with money?  Or do we find that the people who are most healthy spiritually - care the least about money?  We can't measure genetic, or nutritional health effectively - how can we possibly learn to measure spiritual health scientifically? Does the Pope have a healthy spirit?  Do religious leaders have healthy spirits? Does the Dalai Lama have the healthiest spirit? We know that the person with the strongest muscles might not be the healthiest person.  Does the person with the strongest spirit have the healthiest spirit? An interesting question.

And community healthiness?  Can your health be optimal if you live in an unhealthy community? We each live in many communities.  Our family, our friends, our clubs and organizations, our various levels of government, our country and the community of our planet.

Ultimately, each of our communities - even the communities of our enemies, and people who we don't understand, is part of our largest community - the community of humans.

Do you wonder why a wealthy lawyer might leave his wealth generating career and move to a cabin in the backwoods?  Maybe it increases his healthiness.  Was Henry David Thoreau, while in his cabin in the woods, healthier than the factory worker, or market farmer, or the town mayor - each of which made more money than he. Did their money make them healthier?  Do people who win the lottery become healthier?  Or do they spend more money on medicines.

With money, you can buy medicines to help with illness, and medicines to help you deal with symptoms, but you can't buy healthiness.  Each of us  must find our own way to our own level of healthiness.

You have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of healthiness.

yours in health, tracy
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Personal Health Freedom

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Healthy Dying - How do you want to die?

Sherwin B. Nuland, in his book The Art of Aging, answers the question.  We know, he tells us, how we want to die.

We want to be healthy, and then die quickly.  No-one wants to linger for years, becoming more and more decrepit, dirty, dependent, and unhealthy until we finally fade away.

He says "There are those, of course, who would like to die 'all at once,' but others who would prefer a short period of decline, provided it is not at all like the agonizing waning that so many suffer today."

And then he goes on to tell us how this can be achieved. Not suicide. Exercise.

When we maintain our health through exercise - we maintain or entire body, mind and spirit in a healthier balance. Exercise enhances our appetite as well as our digestive system.  Awareness and alertness is increased. We feel, and we are, healthier and happier.

I have often wondered whether it is more effective, in the long, long term, to exercise regularly, or to exercise in fits and spurts - for health and longevity. If we only get 'so many breaths', or 'so many calories' before we die - then exercising too frequently might 'burn them up'. This could result in a trade-off of strength vs longevity.  It may be that if we exercise more frequently throughout our lives - we are stronger and more balanced, but we 'burn out' sooner.  Or maybe not. I suspect none of us will know the answer before we die - so each of us is to make our own, personal exercise choices.

Personally, I tend to drift for a few years with adequate levels of exercise, and then every five years or so I jump into a heavy exercise routine and raise my strength and fitness significantly.  Then, after a few months, or perhaps even a year, I start to drift downwards again.

I'm glad I have a wife who is more driven.  She pulls me to exercise - I want to be with her and she pushes herself to exercise.  Otherwise I might drift lower before I get back to intensive exercise.

Many of us need a coach every once in a while, to push our exercise healthiness to a new level.  What Sherwin found among the elderly is very interesting.  Even amoung the very old, a push (or perhaps better described as assistance or encouragement) to exercise regularly helped them develop significant increases in muscle strength - resulting in better healthiness overall.

Sherwin goes on to explain that, for the elderly, or those above middle age, the most effective exercises for healthy balance are resistance training exercises, typically with weights.

The end result is what he calls 'compression of morbidity'. People who exercise regularly - live longer and then die faster.

That's how I want to die.

Yours in health, tracy
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Personal Health Freedom

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Scientific Measurement of Healthiness

Can we measure healthiness scientifically?

Note: this post was written at the beginning of my explorations of Healthicine. The book:
Introduction to Healthicine: Theories of Health, Healthiness, Illness and Aging , published in early 2014, provides a much more comprehensive, up to date view of health and healthiness - as well as a framework for measuring healthiness.

Let’s look at two hypothetical women, introduced in a recent blog about detox and cleansing.

Alice and Zizi, both in their mid-forties, have no identified medical issues. They are each relatively normal, with one notable exception. You might know someone in each profile.

Alice gets, on average 5 to 7 colds a year, over the past 10 years. When she gets a cold, she is quite seriously affected, and the cold lasts, typically, between 8 and 10 days.

Zizi gets on average, a single cold every 1 or 2 years.  Her colds typically last 3 to 5 days and she suffers only minor systems.

That’s what the health (medical) system knows about Alice and Zizi.  About their illness.  The health (medical) system never looks at their health; in fact Alice and Zizi only contact the health (medical) system when they are sick. And Zizi, because she is generally not seriously affected by her colds – has almost no contact with the health (medical) system.  Alice is well known at the clinic, if not looking for medicine; she is at the very least, looking for a doctor’s note to stay home from work.

Now, the critical question.  Who is healthier, Alice or Zizi?

I think we can agree that Zizi is the most healthy.  But we can also see that she is ignored by the (so called) ‘health system’, because the ‘health system’ is in fact a ‘medical system’, not a health system.

Our health systems are ignorant of the healthiness of Zizi.

If Alice and Zizi go to a doctor, when they do not have a cold, they might both be told they are 'perfectly healthy'.  As if health is measured using yes or no answers.  "No illness" equals perfect health. 

We don’t have a health system. There are no professionals, there is no scientific community that studies Zizi – and no-one that studies the differences between Alice and Zizi.  Our medical system pays a lot of attention to Alice, and tries to cure or prevent her colds – and it ignores Zizi. Zizi is healthy, and there is no ‘health system’ to take notice of Zizi's healthiness.

Why is it important to study Zizi?  As long as we only study illness - we have an incomplete image of health and healthiness. Our concepts of illness, treatment, cure, prevention, and health are all distorted by a view that does not understand or measure healthiness.

I believe Zizi is healthier - and the cold makes no difference. That's my opinion.  But I would like to have a scientific answer.

A scientific answer should be independent of my opinion. It would make objective measurements and decide who is healthier.  Of course there is debate, even in science, but we need a science first - before we can start a scientific debate. Today, there is no science of healthiness. 

How would we obtain an objective, independent, scientific measurement of the health of Alice and Zizi?

Is it appropriate to measure healthiness – every day?  Or can we only measure sickness every day? Maybe, when we study healthiness – we will learn that the minimum resolution of a health measurement is 3 weeks.  Or perhaps longer. That a health measurement of one day, or even 3 or 7 days is irrelevant to health status, only relevant to ‘illness status’.

Or we might find that some measurements of healthiness are immediate and effective. A visual examination of the blood cells of Alice and Zizi might consistently reveal that Zizi is healthier. While examining their colds and sickness status requires analysis over several months or years for an accurate result.

Individual illnesses are measured by a different set of symptoms, tests, and observations. But these symptoms, tests and observations do not necessarily measure healthiness. Nor does the absence of symptoms. 

I believe an objective test for healthiness must ignore the cold, which is a temporary ‘illness’.  When we have true tests for healthiness - they will detect a significant differences between the healthiness levels of Alice and Zizi, without reference to a specific incidence of a cold.

Our medical systems ignores the difference between Alice and Zizi, and has no officially recognized way to measure it.  If someone says "Zizi is healthier than Alice" - there is no proof.  Even a historical record of the frequency of their colds does not constitute proof.  It is simply historical and anecdotal.

How can we measure healthiness scientifically? We have some crude measurements - most are designed to measure populations, not individuals. BMI tells us if a population is overweight or underweight.  But we are cautioned against using it on individuals.  And if Alice and Zizi have simiar BMI scores - that does not help. Most medical tests are designed to measure illness, not to measure healthiness.

I believe we can measure healthiness scientifically.  I'm not a scientist, but I have faith in science.  If it can be measured, science will find a way. And healthiness can be measured.

If we are to measure health, we need to develop scientific measurements of various elements in each of the layers of the hierarchy of health - genetics, nutrition, cells, tissues, organs, systems, body, mind, spirit and community.

There are over 100 nutrients which are critical to optimize health.  To develop a scientific system of healthiness measurement we need to:

a) identify, for each nutrient, the optimal range
b) develop tests to determine if the person being tested is above, below or in the optimal range
c) determine which nutrients are most critical to optimal health, and which are less critical.  This cannot be done until analysis of each nutrient progresses to a point where comparisons an be made reliably.  eg. A long time in the future.

Similarly for each cell type in the body, we need tests to measure their health level. However, testing some cells, liver cells, for example, might entail serious risk.  I believe that the first tests of cell healthiness will be done by measuring the healthiness of blood cells.  We may find that testing the healthiness of blood cells is a reliable indicator for the health of many different types of cells. We can also test cells in the skin, mouth and hair - without serious risk.

Each layer in the hierarchy of health is 'greater than the sum of its parts'.  Measuring the health of your genetics does not necessarily determine the health of your nutrients.  Measuring the healthiness of your nutrients does not necessarily provide a useful measure of the health of your cells.  It might be an influencing factor, but not necessarily the complete picture.  If you are suffering from toxins, measuring nutritional health - of essential nutrients, will give an incomplete picture. Of course if you improve your health in any area - you should expect that this improvement will permeate the hierarchy to some extent.

As we move through layers in the hierarchy of health, the relationships are farther apart.  Of course there may be direct links - a specific genetic unhealthiness might cause unhealthy white blood cells.  But in general, results measured in one layer cannot be used to make assumptions about other layers in the hierarchy.

There is also the possibility that deficits in healthiness in higher layers will cause deficits in lower layers, or in all layers.  If you live in a community that consumes a less than optimal diet - your nutritional health will probably be less than optimal as a result. This may lead to other health deficits.

I believe we can measure health.  One place we could start is in the laboratory.  Maybe we should try to measure the health of lab mice?  We need to find two lab mice, name one of them Alice, and one of them Zizi - and compare their healthiness. At present, I suspect that lab mice are only used for tests of illness, not tests of healthiness. I also suspect that, like the human Alice and Zizi - if the mice are not 'sick', our current system measures them as '100 percent healthy'.  Just like we do for people.

When we learn to measure the healthiness of lab mice - we will be closer to measuring the healthiness of humans.

When we start to measure the healthiness of humans - we will take the first steps towards optimal health.

What might the world, what might our health systems look like when we can measure health?

That is an interesting question to be discussed in future blog posts.

You have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of healthiness.  Pursuit of healthiness is impossible if we cannot measure healthiness.

Yours in health,  tracy
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Personal Health Freedom