Taking a Well-Rounded Approach to Your Health

See also: Importance of Sleep

The human body is intricately interconnected. If there’s a problem with one aspect of your functioning, the entire body suffers. This is why taking a well-rounded approach to your health is extremely important.

While someone may be in great health, there is no way of anticipating some of the conditions and environmental situations (whether it be a pandemic or something more specific to a particular person) that may have an impact on overall wellbeing.

If you want to improve your overall health, age well, and ensure that you are always prepared to ward off unexpected hazards to your health, here are some important things to consider.

Don’t neglect your teeth.

If there’s one area of your health that you’re most likely to neglect, it’s your teeth. Our advice is — don’t.

Healthy teeth are required for eating a well-balanced diet. And a well-balanced diet is one of the cornerstones of a holistic approach to health.

Plus, oral health can profoundly affect other parts of the body. For example, you can develop endocarditis if bacteria from your mouth enter your bloodstream. Endocarditis is inflammation of the inner lining of the heart. When bacteria enter the bloodstream from your mouth, they may latch onto the heart walls, causing inflammation.

Similarly, periodontitis — inflammation of the gums — has been associated with pregnancy complications. These complications include low birth weight and premature birth. Here is some information on common ailments during pregnancy.

Sometimes, bacteria from your mouth can enter your lungs, causing pneumonia.

Oral health also acts as a window to your overall health, which is why it’s important to pay attention to it. For example, if you have diabetes, you may develop frequent and more severe gum infections.

If you have vitamin C deficiency, you may develop scurvy. This is where the gums bleed easily. Similarly, some drugs — like cyclosporine — might cause gingival hyperplasia. In gingival hyperplasia, the gums grow excessively, covering the teeth to an abnormal extent.

The bottom line is that your oral health is very much related to your overall health. And if you’re going to take a well-rounded approach to your health, you must not neglect it.

Many people keep delaying their root canal procedure, thinking it's complicated and painful. In fact, root canal therapy is associated with mild discomfort only and has success rates averaging above 90%. So, make sure to get it as soon as possible if your dentist recommends it, because you now know how important your dental health is.

Quit smoking.

Smoking is the single greatest preventable cause of death in the US. If there’s one thing you do to improve your overall health, it should be saying goodbye to cigarettes.

Smoking leads to lung problems like chronic bronchitis and lung cancer. In turn, these can significantly limit your activity levels and cause a wide range of other health problems. For example, certain lung cancers release a hormone called ACTH, which can cause Cushing syndrome.

You can read more about all the complications of Cushing syndrome here.

Smoking has also been associated with unexpected cancers, such as kidney, bladder, cervical, and pancreatic cancer. Plus, women who smoke might be at an increased risk for pregnancy complications.

Talking to your healthcare provider is the best thing you could do to quit smoking. In addition to pointing you to the right resources, doctors now have drugs that can aid in smoking cessation. One example is varenicline, which reduces nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Be aware of the silent killers.

Hypertension and hypercholesterolemia are the two silent killers you should be aware of. Both don’t cause symptoms until they’ve caused significant damage to the body. And both have widespread negative effects on your health. This is why keeping them in check is an important part of taking a well-rounded approach to your health.

Hypertension refers to high blood pressure. According to the 2017 American College of Cardiology (ACC)/American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines, you have hypertension if your blood pressure is consistently higher than 130/80 mm Hg. 

According to some estimates, hypertension affects up to half the US population. So it’s very prevalent, and you must screen yourself to catch it early on. The American Heart Association recommends getting your blood pressure checked yearly if it’s currently normal and you’re over 20 years of age.

Some consequences of untreated hypertension include:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Kidney failure

While lifestyle modifications can be used to treat hypertension, medical drugs are sometimes a necessity. Make sure to talk to your healthcare provider about this.

Hypercholesterolemia refers to high cholesterol levels in the blood. Excess cholesterol can build up inside your blood vessels, narrowing their lumen. This reduces the blood supply to vital organs, causing widespread damage to the body, such as:

  • Heart attack
  • Peripheral arterial disease, which can lead to gangrene and limb amputation
  • Erectile dysfunction

Hypercholesterolemia is diagnosed by a test called blood lipid profile. According to the CDC, healthy adults should get their cholesterol checked every 4-6 years. Since many causes of hypercholesterolemia are inherited, you should have a lipid profile more often if the disease runs in your family.

Just like hypertension, high cholesterol can be treated with lifestyle modifications. But in many cases, you will need to take statins, which are a class of lipid-lowering drugs.

Be aware of mental health disorders.

Mental health disorders are as disabling as physical illnesses, which is why it’s important to be aware of them.

Depression is a major cause of disability worldwide. Around 246 million people are thought to have it worldwide, so it’s important to be aware of its symptoms.

Doctors define depression as having at least five of the following nine symptoms for more than two weeks:

  • Depressed mood for most of the day, almost every day
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Anhedonia — inability to feel pleasure
  • Feelings of worthlessness or disproportionate guilt
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Diminished concentration, cognition, and ability to make decisions
  • Weight change due to appetite change
  • Psychomotor changes (observed by others) — you may feel either too restless and irritable or too lifeless
  • Suicidal ideation

It’s important to realize that just like high blood pressure and cholesterol, depression can be medically treated. If you feel any of the above symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider.

Given the recent pandemic, anxiety disorders are also worth mentioning here. Two common types of anxiety disorders are generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder.

In GAD, people worry excessively about multiple, unrelated aspects of their life. This can include study, relationships, and work. If this pattern continues for more than six months, a diagnosis of GAD is made.

In panic disorder, people experience sudden bouts of breathlessness, abdominal or chest pain, sweating, palpitations, and feelings of being outside their body. These bouts are unexpected, sudden, and often resolve on their own.

Just like depression, both GAD and panic disorder can be treated with medical drugs. If you’ve been feeling excessively anxious lately (without an identifiable reason), it’s time to see a healthcare provider.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Life

The Skills You Need Guide to Life

This two-part guide is an easy-to-read summary of the essential skills you need for a healthy mind and body.

The first eBook, Looking After Yourself, covers some of our most popular content and will help you to live a happier, healthier and more productive life.

The second eBook, Living Well, Living Ethically, considers how you can live your best life all the time. It helps you to answer the question: how can I avoid having too many regrets about my life?