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The 4 pillars of health

3 min read

The 4 pillars of health
Staying healthy can be difficult, but keeping these four pillars of health in mind can make it easier. Here's how exercising and staying positive can help your health
Expert diagnosis, timely treatment and effective medication play key roles in getting better from any ailment. But human beings are not machines and the recovery process is not necessarily automatic. Your physical state, the strength of your immune system and also your willpower are vital factors.
The following pages focus on four key aspects of your lifestyle, where the changes you make can provide a significant boost to your physical and mental defences as you recover from illness or injury, helping you to return to full health.

1. Attitude counts

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While nobody should claim that you can think yourself well, there’s little doubt that mental attitude plays an important part in many common ills. One US study analysed the records of more than 1,000 patients suffering from symptoms such as chest pain, headache, back pain, abdominal pain and weight loss, and discovered actual physical causes for only 16 per cent of them. The rest were thought to have "psychosocial causes" (linked to the emotional condition and social background of the patient). And it is also clear that the way you deal with illness or trauma can affect its outcome.
"The connection between attitude and life expectancy has been shown in several studies"
The connection between attitude and life expectancy has been shown in several studies. One involving nearly 100,000 women, published in the journal Circulation in 2009, showed that the most optimistic people were 14 per cent less likely to die from any cause over the eight-year study than those who were the most pessimistic, even when other factors such as wealth and lifestyle were taken into account.

2. Diet repair

A healthy diet plays a key role in keeping illness at bay – for example, one third of all cancers are thought to be due, at least in part, to poor nutrition. What you eat also has a significant effect on the way your body copes when under attack. In particular, foods that contain the right nutrients can boost the functioning of the immune system, helping it to fight off infection.
"A good diet can give you energy and provide the nutrients you need to help cell regeneration"
A good diet can give you energy and provide the nutrients you need to help cell regeneration and speed up tissue repair, while a poor one can impair recovery and increase the risk that complications may develop. In this chapter you’ll find out how a balanced diet that contains foods from each of the main food groups can set you on the road to optimum health

3. Exercise strengthens

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Rest is important in the first stages of many illnesses, but once you’re through the worst, a return to activity is an important part of the recovery process, boosting morale as well as muscles. But you don’t have to join a gym or take up a sport; informal types of exercise are just as beneficial. Gardening, housework and walking the dog can all help in the management of a huge range of health problems including depression, back pain, diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis. As a general rule, aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity— something that makes you slightly breathless—five days a week.

4. Sleep heals

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Have you noticed that you succumb to bugs more quickly when you’re tired? Research at Carnegie Mellon University in the USA has shown that the less we sleep, the more likely we are to develop a cold. This may be because lack of sleep impairs the immune system and therefore compromises the body’s ability to fight off viruses. And another US study highlighted the correlation between poor sleep and the subsequent occurrence of gastrointestinal symptoms in women suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
"Good-quality sleep is essential for the health of the cerebral cortex in the brain"
Everybody needs down time in which to repair itself, and a body damaged by illness or injury will need more rest than most. Good-quality sleep is essential for the health of the cerebral cortex in the brain. If you’re sleep-deprived, you’ll feel physically and mentally below par. There’s also evidence that those who experience poor sleep feel more pain and are less able to muster the coping skills needed to put into action strategies for recovery.
Banner credit: Health (PeopleImages)
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