What is Health and How Do You Know If You Are Healthy?

Being healthy requires proper hydration, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and exercise, and maintaining a healthy nervous system without interference.

The Oxford Dictionary definition of health is the state of being free from illness or injury. How would you define health?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, I’m going to use a couple different definitions that I can quote pretty well. I think when you look up Dorland’s Medical Dictionary, which is the gold standard for medical students, it says, “health is the state of optimal physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or symptoms”. That was taken directly from Dorland’s Medical Dictionary. When you look it up in Webster’s dictionary, it says, “a condition of wholeness in which all organs are functioning a hundred percent of the time”.

And I love these two definitions because number one, they weren’t put forth by chiropractors and they talk about a condition of wholeness, not just merely the absence of symptoms or pain. But if you went up to most people on the street and you asked them if they’re healthy, they would pretty much base it on how they feel. And if they feel pain free and they’re not expressing symptoms or pain, they would say that they’re healthy. Would you agree?

RC: I agree, definitely.

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: But the truth is you can be a very healthy person and be in a lot of pain, and you can also have no pain whatsoever and be a very sick person. There are people who have undiagnosed cancer, and they don’t have any symptoms at all. So, it’s really not about pain or symptoms in my book. It’s truly about optimal function and optimizing the ability of the body to adapt to stress in the environment.

And in chiropractic, we teach that health isn’t a commodity. It can’t be purchased, it can’t be sold. It doesn’t come in a tablet, it doesn’t come in a bottle, it doesn’t come in a pill, it doesn’t come in a potion and it doesn’t come in a lotion. It can really only be obtained by maintaining and allowing the natural recuperative power of your body to function unimpaired. And that’s an important thing because people base their health on symptoms. And I would never do that because again, you can have no pain or no symptoms whatsoever and be gravely ill and the opposite is also true.

Could you list and describe the different types of health such as mental health?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Interesting question. When you talk about different types of health, I think health is kind of like this umbrella term, and then underneath it there might be these subsections like mental health, your physical health, your emotional health, your emotional wellbeing. And I’ve heard it said that way many times, but honestly, I’m not super interested in dividing it up and breaking it down. When we look at a simpler model and we look at those definitions that we talked about before, when you’re in that state of optimal physical, mental and social wellbeing, not just being absent of disease symptoms or sickness.

We can go down and break down every symptom and look at sexual health, urinary health, heart health, all the buzzwords that are out there. So, by breaking it down, we can look at things in a more detailed way. But generally speaking, health is just, again, as I defined it, when everything is working together, there’s a coordinate action to help your body just kind of deal with stresses, whether it be bacteria, viruses, heat, cold, or physical trauma. It’s just how well and efficiently your body adapts to stress is really kind of what I would call general health. And there are different types of stresses, physical, chemical, and mental, but they all have a similar effect on the body.

So, I like to just keep it all under that one umbrella and it’s not as important to break it down individually. I mean, there’s even spinal health. We talked about that.

RC: For sure. That makes sense.

How important is it for seemingly healthy people to get regular checkups and preventative screenings to detect issues or conditions they might not feel symptoms of?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: That’s an excellent question. We kind of talk about this in chiropractic because I feel like I’m serving my people best when they’re coming in and they’re asymptomatic. Once their body’s healed up from whatever their presenting condition was then I talk about prevention and maintenance. You don’t wait until the engine seizes and then say, “Gee, I better check my oil.” You check the oil, you do regular maintenance, you make sure the alignment’s good on your car. The things that we value, we take care of. And if you value your health, then prevention and maintenance is going to be key.

And there’s a difference between preventative screenings. In this country, we’re all about early detection, early detection for breast cancer but there’s nothing that really people talk about about prevention of breast cancer. They don’t talk about those things. And when we come from a preventative point of view, then we get to understand that it really isn’t about early detection. Don’t get me wrong. Detecting something early is hugely important. It saves lives. I’d rather be at stage one cancer, not discovering it at stage four, because those things are certainly easier to manage and easier to get well from.

But if you base your health on symptoms, you’re really making a bad decision. Just because your teeth don’t hurt doesn’t mean that you stop brushing them and stop going to the dentist because you can have a cavity and not even be aware of it. You can have problems with your gums and they can be degenerating and they don’t hurt. And like I always say, no one wakes up on the morning of their dental appointment and says, “Gee, my teeth don’t hurt. I’m going to cancel it.” People know if you care for your teeth consistently and regularly throughout the course of your lifetime, it’ll last you a lifetime.

And the spine’s no different, I’ve said this a million times to you I’m sure, that it’s made of similar stuff. It degenerates in a similar fashion as your teeth. And if it’s not cared for, the spine will degenerate. And that’s the important part because when the spine degenerates and misaligns, then it puts pressure on the nerve system and that nerve system being the master controlling system of everything else in the body. That system is being protected by the very bones of the spinal column and if they’re out of alignment, they will irritate those nerves, causing pressure on the very nerves that they’re designed to protect. That changes the way the nerve system functions and fires, and then that’s going to be suboptimal for your health and then your health is going to be suboptimal. So, your body will be slower to adapt, slower to heal. Opportunistic infections will take a stronger hold if your immune system is slower. If they get a foothold, then they can keep building. But normally our body’s right on top of it and keeps those infections in check. Injuries will be slower to heal.

It’s so important to make sure that we don’t allow these things to have a negative effect on our health. People who wait until they’re in pain or have massive amounts of symptoms, their life is already affected. And then they’re trying to do the Hail Mary pass and fix it there. I’d rather never go down that road. Like I said, I wash my car, I change the oil, I do regular tune-ups and I do the same thing on my body. I see a chiropractor, I exercise, I get rest. I try to eat. And that way my body serves me well. But caring for your spine and your body, it’s a personal choice. And we all see it time after time when we walk the streets, we see tons of people in various states of health, sickness and disease, and it’s really a lot of your personal choice.

Now, the MacArthur Foundation did studies and they say that your health, primarily it’s 30% genetic and 70% lifestyle. That means to me that we have a lot more control than we think we do.

Most people don’t consider posture as an indicator of health. So, can you please explain the role posture plays in keeping us healthy?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Absolutely. Posture is an excellent indicator of health. There’s been a lot of recent studies that talk about posture and your health and longevity, and there were even some recent studies that state that having good posture is as important to your overall health as getting rest and good food. It helps you avoid muscle tension, pain, fatigue, and many other medical conditions.

There are three issues that primarily contribute to poor posture and back pain, spinal dysfunction, joint degeneration. And the things that we look at are primarily the rounded shoulders, the forward head posture, being overweight, all those things are going to change your posture. If you have a potbelly and your stomach comes forward, then your body has to compensate and move the rest of it back. Otherwise, you would topple over when you get out of balance. So, all these things come into play.

When you’re having poor posture, you’re more likely to experience difficulty breathing. You’re more likely to be fatigued and have tension in the muscles. When the muscles are tight in the rib cage, it prevents the bucket handle moving up and down of the ribs, which can affect your breathing. It compresses the diaphragm, which makes it more difficult to breathe and inhale and exhale completely. So people, when they’re under stress, you always see that shallow breathing and then they take that big sigh to catch up to try and get back on it. That leads to fatigue and low energy, it’s going to affect your productivity at work.

Using poor sitting posture results in poor circulation and impaired lung function. If you’re slouching forward, you’re compressing your internal organs, which can affect your digestion. Poor posture will allow the vertebrae to be in these misaligned positions or subluxated and that puts pressure on the delicate spinal nerves, which can contribute to back pain, neck pain, and dysregulation in the body. It also contributes to arthritis. When things aren’t lined up right and you’re using poor posture, the joints are stressed and then they kind of rub on each other. Then we can see degenerative changes in the spine when we take x-rays.

By correcting the forward head posture, it minimizes and eliminates headaches and TMJ problems. People don’t realize when they’re having jaw pain, it’s usually because there’s forward head posture. And that’s why chiropractors have so much success with headaches and jaw pain. Because if you jot your head and push it forward and try and talk or chew, it changes the alignment of the jaw. And that’s where those problems come from. So, it’s really important to understand how far-reaching all these things, stress and poor posture, really build into the body and effects all our other systems.

Is there a checklist of factors such as eat a healthy diet, exercises regularly that must be met to determine if someone is basically healthy?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: I’m sure there are all kinds of checklists and things out there, but health is a conglomerate of all the different things that we do. We have been alluding to this on several of our talks together, and it’s truly the sum total of all the different things. Health is multifactorial. There’s no one silver bullet. It’s not like if you get adjusted, all of a sudden you’re bulletproof and nothing’s going to hurt you or kill you, you’re never going to get sick. It’s truly about proper hydration, getting enough sleep, proper nutrition, proper exercise.

Where a chiropractor comes in, it’s about proper nerve supply, making sure that the connection from the brain to the body is clear without interference. So, when your brain has the idea to digest food, break it down into these amino acids, and then reassemble those amino acids as a liver enzyme, it takes a lot of work and a lot of smarts to do that. And that’s all controlled by your nerve system. The nerve system kind of coordinates and regulates it, but there are so many things that we need to do. So, health, there’s no one thing. And so there is a checklist, but it’s multifactorial.

We always talk about eat well, think well, sleep well, move well and just be healthy. So, it’s really multifactorial, and we could probably go on and on and on, but basically everything that we know about health, our parents kind of taught us the basics. Just eat a good diet, get plenty of rest, hydrate, get some exercise, keep your nerve system healthy, and typically that leads to an active healthy life. And don’t get me wrong, there are always exceptions to the rule. Someone can be struck with some horrible disease, or you could step out in front of a car tomorrow, and that can be the end of it.

It’s about making sure you live your best day every day and stack every deck in your favor.

Learn More

To speak with Dr. Gregg Rubinstein, visit www.ChiropractorMidtown.com or call (212) 977-7094 to schedule an appointment.

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