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Health Indicators

Published: May 24, 2013

How do you know if you are healthy? Health may be determined by the absence of disease, your energy levels, absence of aches and pains, and whether or not you feel healthy. 
You may feel healthier on a bright sunny day than on a grey rainy day.  Your mood can psychologically and physiologically affect how healthy you think you are.  But is feeling healthy the same as being healthy?
There are several ways to assess your health status. These include physical, physiological and psychological assessment.
Blood pressure and heart rate are two health indicators
Blood pressure and heart rate are two health indicators
Physical Indicators of Health
Physical indicators of health are external measurements and observations of your body which can provide you with some idea of your internal health.  Physical body measurements are correlated to health status. 
For example, waist circumference can indicate whether you are carrying too much abdominal fat which has negative implications for health such as increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. 
Observations about hair, nails, and skin can provide you with an indication of your micronutrient status. Gums which bleed easily and capillaries which lie just beneath the skin which spontaneously break producing pin prick sized hemorrhages on the skin may be an indication of vitamin C deficiency.  
Your physical fitness level also contributes to your health.
Physical indicators of health include:  Physiological Indicators of Health 
Physiological indicators of health are the measurements of internal body functions and in most cases require the services of a medical professional. These indicators are usually examined through blood, urine and fecal samples when a disease or nutrient deficiency is suspected, but may be measured as part of your annual physical.
Blood-glucose levels can indicate whether you may be at increased risk for diabetes type 2, and blood-iron levels can identify certain types of anaemia.  Physiological indicators of health include:
In addition to these measurements there are several screening tests available for specific population groups. These include:
  • Screening for breast cancer (mamogram)
  • Screening for prostate cancer (PSA)
  • Screening for colon cancer
  • Screening for osteoporosis - bone density measurement
Psychological Indicators of Health 
Healthy hair
Healthy hair
Stress, moods, body image, and depression are several psychological factors which influence health. For instance how you perceive your body shape and weight may positively or negatively affect your attitude towards food,eating habits, and exercise, and thus influence your health outcomes.
The media, internet, TV, magazines and newspapers are awash with tantalizing adverts for food and beverages, while at the same time health messages proclaim an obesity epidemic and exhort people to lose weight. 
As the incidence of obesity increases so does the incidence of eating disorders, which may be fuelled by health messages to lose weight and by the idolization of ultra thin celebrities and models.
Both men and women are affected by these mixed messages and even when an eating disorder has not been diagnosed, patterns of disordered eating can negatively affect health.
Weight cycling or "yoyo" dieting can leave you feeling dissatisfied with yourself, depressed and may have physiological implications on your health such as increased risk of heart disease. 
Some measurements you can determine for yourself, while others require professional assistance.  Even if you consider yourself to be in good health an annual check up with your health practitioner will provide you with a more formal analysis of your health status.
The health of your gastrointestinal tract has a major impact on your overall health. Poor eating habits and lack of physical activity may result in a sluggish digestive system and constipation.
You may not have any negative health indicators, but you can enhance your health and decrease your risk for several chronic diseases by adopting healthy eating and physical activity practices.
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Related Topics

Health  Your Body 

References

1.
Whitney, E. & Rady Rolfes, S. (2005). Understanding Nutrition. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth
2.
Mann. K. & Escott-Stump, S. (Eds.)(2004). Krause's Food, Nutrition & Diet Therapy. (11th Ed.) Elsevier