Defining “healthy” is hard.
Some say weight and health are perfectly correlated, but others don’t.
There’s a veritable cornucopia of opinions on what good digestive health looks like, and only a handful of those assessments are in agreement.
And let’s not even get started on the issue of what constitutes a healthy diet! In an effort to lock down some solid information, here’s what physicians, researchers, and other folks in the know have to say when it comes to indicators of good health.
Full, lustrous hair While brittle, dry, or thinning hair can be signs that something might be going wrong, the reverse is also true: healthy hair is an indication of a healthy body. Today show health expert Joy Bauer, says, “Good hair depends on the body’s ability to construct a proper hair shaft, as well as the health of the skin and follicles. Good nutrition assures the best possible environment for building strong, lustrous hair.” Nourished by key components of your diet like protein, vitamins, and healthy fats, healthy hair reflects that you’re eating well and absorbing all the good stuff from your food. Strong nails Another window into your health is, one might say, right at your fingertips: it’s your nails! Dermatologist Christine Poblete-Lopez, of the Cleveland Clinic says, “Your nails are a very good reflection of your health.
Many things can occur in the nails that can signify systemic or skin problems.” A pink nail bed without lines or discolorations, as well as strong nails without pitting, lines, or weakness, are all signs of good health. However, if your nails undergo changes like discoloration or start to look pitted, it could be a sign that something is amiss. Director of Advanced Dermatology and spokesman for the American Academy of Dermatology. Joshua Fox, MD, explains, “Changes in the nails can be a sign of a local disease like a fungus infection or a sign of a systemic disease like lupus or anemia.” Let’s talk about poo Ok, so this one is super awkward — but it’s also super important. As Dr. Vasudha Dhar, a gastroenterologist writing for Everyday Health, says, “There really is no easier way to discover what’s happening inside your body than seeing what comes out of it.” According to Dhar, there’s a wide range of “normal” bowel movements. She explains, “Everyone’s GI tract operates differently based on a combination of constant and changing factors ─ genetics, hydration, dietary habits, medication use, and ongoing health issues.” Instead of worrying about whether or not your poo meets these purportedly ideal criteria, focus on what is typical for you.
If you notice symptoms like visible blood, continual constipation, or prolonged diarrhea, however, it’s time to call your doc. Social support Some of the most interesting research to come out recently has shown that having friends, a strong social support network, and opportunities for interaction are all profoundly good for you. It seems obvious that this would impact mental health, but research is showing that it affects physical health, too. According to a study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, people with more social connections are “healthier and live longer than their more isolated peers.” Social connections and relationships affect behavioral, mental, and physical health. Basically, no aspect of a person’s health goes untouched by their degree of isolation and loneliness. According to the Harvard Women’s Health Watch newsletter, social connectivity can reduce stress, as well as triggers stress-reducing hormones. What qualifies as social support? Offering to help others, giving out advice, and affection all fit the bill. Say “ahhhh” Melanie St. Ours, a Baltimore-based clinical herbalist, says that the Chinese Medicine-inspired practice of tongue reading can be a great barometer of health and wellness.
She told The List: “It’s not a substitute for medical diagnosis, but if you want to get a sense of how well you’re digesting last night’s dinner, or how your body is handling stress, your tongue can tell you a lot.” St. Ours explained further how to read the tongue for signs in an article on MindBodyGreen. If the tip of your tongue is red, for example, it’s a sign that your heart, mind, and emotions are revved up. Other tongue signs include a thick coating ─ particularly towards the back ─ which signals that your digestion isn’t performing optimally. Teeth marks on the sides of the tongue could mean low energy, slow digestion, and that your brain is hard at work. Hmm. Maybe consider checking your tongue before asking WebMD about your latest ache or pain? The vital signs According to the BBC, basic fitness guidelines include, “30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five times a week.” Doctors also look at whether a person can do reasonable fitness activities such as walk a 15-minute mile, carry two shopping bags from the store to the car, and climb a flight of stairs without getting winded.
Furthermore, having normal vital signs is, well, vital. As published in the BBC report, normal, healthy vital signs include, “a resting pulse of about 70 beats per minute, and a respiratory rate of about 16 to 20 breaths per minute.” Mind, body, spirit Proactively managing your mental and emotional health is another key sign of being healthy, especially since, according to the U.S. government’s Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, disorders like depression are strongly connected to other chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Furthermore, as David Goldberg, a professor at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, told Psych Central, “…not only do many chronic illnesses cause higher rates of depression, but depression has been shown to antedate some chronic physical illnesses.” Exercise, meditation, therapy — they all have their benefits, that in turn benefit each other.
To your health! One thing that people often find when trying to make healthy changes is that it can all feel totally overwhelming. But, if you find that you want, or need, to make some changes, it’s okay to take things slowly. Add in a few things that you feel good about. A salad at lunch, an afternoon walk, or calling a friend for support, can actually go a long way.