The case against normal
What does healthy mean to you? Does healthy mean only the absence of disease? Or does healthy mean the presence of bodily functions? If so, exactly what does the presence of bodily functions mean? Bodily functions that are close to normal? If so, what is normal?
Normal is defined as conforming to a standard or an average. However, average means not much better than most. Most people have at least some dysfunction in their body, such as the inabilities to wake up fresh every morning, maintain a consistent level of energy throughout the day, and remember things perfectly. Some studies suggest that age related cognitive decline starts to occur in healthy individuals as early as in their twenties or thirties. We are all familiar with age related decline in function such as Sarcopenia (muscle loss), Osteoporosis (bone loss), Macular degeneration (an eye condition), Presbycusis (hearing loss), Cognitive problem, Hormone dysfunction and countless other conditions.
We may accept these aberrations from a perfect state of health as normal because most people experience these seemingly slight aberrations and decide to accept them as normal. However, if we want to get the most out of life, we should not aspire to be in this state of normal health or be satisfied with being able to perform day-to-day functions while free from disease. To get the most out of life, we can aspire to achieve the most physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Not only is this aspiration possible to achieve, we deserve to attain this through optimal health.
In contrast to normal health, optimal health consists of being more fit than average and taking proactive steps to prevent or mitigate any age-related decline in fitness. More than just looking and feeling young and healthy, the more evident components of optimal health include:
1) optimal body weight,
2) good quality sleep,
3) mental alertness,
4) optimal energy level, and
5) optimal sexual function.
In addition, the subtle components of optimal health include:
1) metabolic health,
2) hormone health,
3) optimal nutrients,
4) cellular function, and
5) mitochondrial function.
Personalized medicine enables us to achieve both the more evident and subtle components of optimal health, which transcend normal health.
3 to remember in this article
1. Age related decline in function is not unavoidable
2. A healthy lifestyle can help achieve sustainable function regardless of chronological age
3. To stay young, start early and think ahead
Then aging happens. As we get older, common understanding is that things start to fall apart. We accept decline in function as a normal aging process.
Neurobiol Aging. 2009 Apr;30(4):507-14. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2008.09.023. Epub 2009 Feb 20