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The importance of healthy lifestyle in modern society: a medical, social and spiritual perspective

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Abstract

Lifestyle describes a complex behavioral strategies and routines, attitudes and values, norms assumed in order to individual or group to score as convenient in a social context. The importance of medical education in terms of healthy lifestyle is very well recognized nowadays. Lifestyle medicine offers important information about nutrition, physical activity, stress control and social support systems. Lifestyle can be treated as an indicator of social attitudes and of the ideologies that are functioning in the social space. In aboriginal tribes, eating behaviors had a strong religious imprint referring directly to obtain favors from the gods as health, wealth, healing and long life. Even if blatant promotion of a lifestyle can produce civilization, modelling behaviours, yet strongly promoting a lifestyle can become a subtle tool of manipulation and control. Following a healthy lifestyle, regardless of age, will have numerous health benefits, being proven that it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, decreases incidence of obesity and diabetes, the risk of malignancy, psychiatric disorders and cognitive dysfunction. The actual guidelines in preventive cardiovascular medicine provide the most important rules for physical training and healthy diet.
European Journal of Science and Theology, June 2014, Vol.10, No.3, 111-120
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THE IMPORTANCE OF HEALTHY LIFESTYLE IN
MODERN SOCIETY
A MEDICAL, SOCIAL AND SPIRITUAL PERSPECTIVE
Corina Dima-Cozma1*, Cristina Gavrilută2, Geta Mitrea2 and
Doina-Clementina Cojocaru1
1Gr. T. Popa’ University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Ist Medical Department, Discipline of
Medical Semiology, 16 Universitatii street, 700115, Iasi, Romania
2 Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iași, Faculty of Philosophy and Socio-Political Sciences,
54 Lascar Catargiu street, Iasi, Romania
(Received 18 January 2014, revised 23 February 2014)
Abstract
Lifestyle describes a complex behavioral strategies and routines, attitudes and values,
norms assumed in order to individual or group to score as convenient in a social context.
The importance of medical education in terms of healthy lifestyle is very well
recognized nowadays. Lifestyle medicine offers important information about nutrition,
physical activity, stress control and social support systems. Lifestyle can be treated as an
indicator of social attitudes and of the ideologies that are functioning in the social space.
In aboriginal tribes, eating behaviors had a strong religious imprint referring directly to
obtain favors from the gods as health, wealth, healing and long life. Even if blatant
promotion of a lifestyle can produce civilization, modelling behaviours, yet strongly
promoting a lifestyle can become a subtle tool of manipulation and control. Following a
healthy lifestyle, regardless of age, will have numerous health benefits, being proven that
it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, decreases incidence of obesity and diabetes,
the risk of malignancy, psychiatric disorders and cognitive dysfunction. The actual
guidelines in preventive cardiovascular medicine provide the most important rules for
physical training and healthy diet.
Keywords: lifestyle, health, body, nutrition, physical activity
1. Lifestyle relevance of the concept in modern society
Concept launched at the beginning of the twentieth century, the lifestyle
has been made a career in medical, sociological field and beyond. It is
considered both an indicator of social integration, quality of life, satisfaction
level in the population, social status or consumer needs [1]. In fact, making
lifestyle describes a complex behavioural strategies and routines, attitudes and
values, norms assumed in order to individual or group to score as convenient in a
social context. Although lifestyle is used as a modern term, the extraordinary
*E-mail: corinadimacozma@yahoo.com, phone: + 40 745937428
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112
importance of behavioural habits, such as type and quality of food in Medicine
was highlighted even in the time of Hippocrates. Nowadays the importance of
medical education in terms of healthy lifestyle was recognized and, in 2010,
Lianov and Johnson strongly recommended in the Journal of the American
Medical Association physician education and training in lifestyle medicine:
Physician educators at both the undergraduate and graduate medical
education levels should consider incorporating the relevant lifestyle medicine
competencies into education and training programs [2]. Other modern-day
definitions of lifestyle medicine have been proposed:
Egger, 2008: the application of environmental, behavioral, medical and
motivational principles to the management of lifestyle-related health
problems in a clinical setting [3];
Dysinger, 2013: lifestyle medicine is the application of simple, natural
healing approaches to chronic disease and prevention [4];
The Lifestyle Medicine Competency Development Panel, 2013: the
evidence based practice of helping individuals and families adopt and
sustain healthy behaviors that affect health and quality of life [4].”
Lifestyle medicine offers important information about nutrition, physical
activity, stress control and social support systems [2]:
nutrition refers not only to natural and organic foods, but especially adapted
to particular illness or disease predispositions and dietary supplements;
physical activity refers to aerobic and anaerobic training, from mild to
vigorous in intensity and should be adapted, supervised and regular;
behavioural modification technique and socio-familial stress management,
in an integrated mind-body medicine;
avoidance of chronic exposure to radiation and to environmental
contaminants found in air, food or water.
Thus, today, diet and physical exercise must be understood not only as
aspects of wellbeing but, more important, as instruments for building health.
Health should be viewed in a much broader perspective, not only medical but
also social. According to World Health Organization (W.H.O.), definition of
health is very ambitious and far-reaching: “health is a state of complete physical,
mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity
(WHO 1946) [WHO, Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health
Organization, adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19
22 June, 1946, online at http://www.who.int/about/definition/en/]. In a sense
closer to social objectives, Lennart Nordenfelt [5] suggests a more cautious
definition, based on the concept of ability and disability, more important in his
vision, than the medical concepts of pain and suffering. As consequences of
Nordenfelt‟s interpretation of health, the definition could be differentiated
according to a particular social context. Argued by other international studies,
health is related to another important concept, that of quality of life. Recent
investigations in Sweden indicated that health is for many people the most
important aspect of the meaning of life [6]. The respondents appreciated that
being in good healthis directly related to quality of life, which is understood
The importance of healthy lifestyle in modern society
113
as a multi-dimensional concept depending of several components rather than
just one particular ingredient of well-being [6]. Concern for health and lifestyle
can become exaggerated and some authors define these social trends as
healthism. Robert Crawford [7] and Greenhalgh and Wessely [8] explain the
term healthism as “an ideology where maintaining health and avoiding illness
have become the supreme human values” or as “a modern cultural, mainly
middle class, phenomenon, characterized by excessive health awareness and
expectations”.
2. Healthy lifestyle a socio-anthropological and spiritual approach
Lifestyle can be treated as an indicator of social attitudes [9] and of the
ideologies [10] that are functioning in the social space. Difficulty debated and
disputed, today lifestyles make careers in fields different from those in which it
arose (the sociological and anthropological). It is found in market research and
marketing strategy, in studies of physical training, education and occurs with a
certain constancy in trials and medical research. Commercial advertising abound
with tips for healthy living, products on the market are designed to ensure the
same, medical networks are accompanied by guidelines for a healthy lifestyle,
service and technology come to support a healthy lifestyle and all what is around
us likely make part of a wider scenario of a lifestyle that ensures a carefree life,
perfect health and eternal youth. Medical research contains guidelines
announced by lifestyle issues, in fact, a change of perspective on health. It is not
just a purely biological fact but also a socio-human approach. However, what
explain the formidable mobility and audience of the concept and it‟s association
with health? What are the social effects of a flashy promotion of lifestyle? Here
are just two questions that can challenge the sociologist, the anthropologist and
the doctor. From a broader perspective would be two answers that could explain
the marriage health - lifestyle.
2.1. The presence of the collective imaginary mythical fantasy
At any time the man has been concerned about its origins but was
frequented by fantasies of immortality. The ideal of youth without old age and
life without death is not only present in myths [11], legends or stories, he is
cloaked in modern scientific research. Among these, the medical field had the
highest social level echo. Why? Because besides the miraculous pills and
intervention techniques, attention have refocused on one aspect of our existence
as far as it is ignored. It is the relationship of our body with the world, that
surrounds us. Healthy diet, organic food, movement and exercise, stress
management, human relationships, hygiene, rest and sleep are just a few
examples. It is however a recent concern. It is found in all times and represent
beyond an adaptive reaction, a man's way to harmonize with the natural rhythms,
or a gesture or behaviour that mimics a old gesture, originating in illo tempore
[12].
Dima-Cozma et al/European Journal of Science and Theology 10 (2014), 3, 111-120
114
For example, eating behaviours in aboriginal tribes had a strong religious
imprint referring directly to obtain favours from the gods as health, wealth,
healing and long life.
Recent findings on healthy lifestyles are actually attempts to scientifically
conduct to a natural behaviour, that man has always felt a natural one, as
compared with others and nature. The even set of practices and attitudes of
contemporary man announces a certain nostalgia of origins [11]. It is the original
condition that assumes a certain position in relation to the universe. Outings,
holidays, rural and sea movement, may be expressions of the unconscious needs
to escape from the rhythm of modern life.
Perhaps not incidentally, current medical researches are involving isolated
populations, that live by different rules and have their own forms of healing. In
these circumstances, the new findings regarding a healthy lifestyle come to find
their audience because come amid a knowledge and latent needs, unconsciously
felt by each of us.
2.2. New technology, ideology and control of the bodies
It would not be without interest to associate the current discourse on a
healthy lifestyle with a number of ideological orientations. Relying on new
technology and a number of scientific discoveries they set in motion an entire
bodies dominance mechanism. The issue of power and their subservience was
brilliantly presented by Michel Foucault in the seventies. This political
investment of the body is linked by complex and reciprocal relations to the use of
it by economic point of view; to a large extent, the body is invested with
relations of power and domination, but in the quality of the force of production,
the labour force is possible only if it is involved in a system of subjection (in
which need is an organized political tool, calculated and used with great
careful). In this way, body becomes a useful force only if it is at the same time
productive body and body subservient. [13] Bodies control today by aesthetic
standards of health through education, and sports is promoting healthy lifestyle
patterns. Everything putted in the service of the body seems to generate a
perverse and contrary effect: consistency, control and domination of it.
With scientific support and new technologies, state builds different
mechanisms of domination over the body, gradually pulling it out from the
jurisdiction of the Church [14]. Fasting and abstinence forms from the ancient
period turn to diets and healthy eating nowadays. The same happens with other
behaviours and body techniques [14]. In this context of domination and control
of a number of scientific disciplines, dispute their authority over the body. Until
now seems that Medicine have gained enough advance in this dispute. However,
his speech and his research is permanently shaped on the dominant ideological
orientations. Noteworthy are the concessions she makes to sociology,
psychology or anthropology. Thus, the new physicality is entirely dominated by
certain elite project in order to secure control bodies, mastered by the
systematic use of technical devices. [15]
The importance of healthy lifestyle in modern society
115
Healthy lifestyles fall within the language and current practices thanks to
a certain accessibility (lots of social groups can understand and approach the
concept) and an excessive promotion. He becomes for many the perfect solution
for good health, an outfit enviable secret key for social and personal success. It
may be noted that we enter the body in a certain dynamic of practices,
techniques and social representations which can generate confidence and
constraints. For example, progress in the field of hygiene lead to simultaneous
censorship of representation and practice consumption of psychoactive
substances like tobacco and alcohol [15, p. 173].
So, blatant promotion of a lifestyle can produce civilization, modelling
behaviours and our attitudes in relation to ourselves and the world. Either it is
the dream of any ideology, while strongly promoting a lifestyle can become a
subtle tool of manipulation and control.
In this social context, the church and its representatives can play an
important role in the implementation of the educational measures in population.
Some authors reported that persons who are religiously active, defined, for
example, in churches attendance, were healthier than others, less religiously
[16]. In this kind of people, were noted indicators of superior health, like a
normal blood pressure or lipid profile.
This holistic approach that combine Biomedicine with traditional,
complementary and alternative medicine, having the purpose of improving the
quality of life, received the term of integrative medicine [17]. The spirituality is
also useful in comprehensive approach of treating addiction, especially for
alcohol dependence, or in particular social categories, like teenagers or elderly
people. Despite the known positive influence of religion and spirituality on
teenager‟s lifestyle, modern life and mixture of religious trends may drop the
importance of religious component. Modern society has determined also the
polarization of spiritual tendencies, some people choosing the path of atheism,
while others are inclined to cultivate their religiosity. Since most young people
are going through rapidly emotional changes, religion can be a support but can
sometimes become a barrier to some expected transformations. Relationship
between ethnic differences and the influence of religion can be more powerful
revealed on young people [18]. In addition, many young people reported high
levels of stress perception in the period of high-school and college. Teaching
students stress management should prevent social and family later problems.
Older people represent another vulnerable group to which barriers are
otherwise active: although spirituality is well represented, access to healthy
lifestyle or complex and integrative therapies is more difficult to implement
because low financial support.
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116
3. Healthy lifestyle a medical perspective
3.1. Healthy lifestyle importance in preventive and curative medicine
Lifestyle is particularly important at any age, but it is built during
childhood and adolescence. National and international discussions and
publications are trying to define the components of lifestyle (Quality of life
magazine, Social Psychology magazine, Annals of sociology and social work,
etc.) and highlight the particularities of age. More broadly, lifestyle is the way a
person or a wider group of people choose to live, this being referred to their
economic, occupational level and type of activities they practice during leisure.
Lifestyle can be healthy or unhealthy, in terms of diet, level of exercise, some
habits and mode of activity alternating with periods of relaxation. A healthy
lifestyle is correlated with good health and a high perception of well-being,
while an unhealthy lifestyle leads to depression and isolation. Unhealthy
behaviours such as smoking, alcohol abuse, overeating, in combination with
high levels of stress, lead short and long term to many diseases [19, 20].
Building a healthy lifestyle, regardless of age, will have numerous health
benefits, being proven that it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease,
decreases incidence of obesity and diabetes, the risk of malignancy, psychiatric
disorders and cognitive dysfunction. Childhood and adolescence are critical
periods for the development of personality and for building a lifestyle. These can
put their mark on all subsequent development of the individual. Current studies
share a number of negative behaviours on the lifestyle of adolescents: more than
30% of high school students spend more that 3h/day watching television or
playing computer games, over 60% of students do not reach a level of physical
activity recommended for their age and this contributes to the early development
of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases.
Studies have shown that low levels of physical activity leads to a number
of diseases such as high levels of systolic and diastolic blood pressure, increased
prevalence of overweight and obesity. Similarly, obesity is a consequence of
irregular schedule of meals and sugary snacks from fast food. Health and social
programs to improve lifestyle were addressed up to now, more to adult and
elderly, neglecting the major changes that have affected the lives of children and
adolescents in the past two decades, and the implementation of preventive
initiatives in comprehensive lifestyle programs was sporadic and less
substantiated by research conducted on our population [20, 21].
Healthy lifestyle is many times efficient not only for prevention but even
for treating many diseases, the most important being cardio-metabolic
categories, like diabetes mellitus, atherosclerosis, hypertension and
dyslipidemia. This approach of disease in terms of lifestyle could be very cost-
efficient, as demonstrated Herman et al. [22]. They tested both lifestyle
intervention and metformin against placebo intervention in the prevention of
type 2 diabetes mellitus in patients with impaired glucose tolerance. Lifestyle
delayed the onset of diabetes by 11 years and metformin treatment by 3 years,
The importance of healthy lifestyle in modern society
117
with fewer expenses in lifestyle strategy and they concluded that “lifestyle costs
less and performs better”.
Medicine could better individualize the lifestyle programs for some
diseases and for different age categories: women, children and teenagers,
elderly. For example, a subject now under debates is weight loss in elderly
people. In this age category, an excess of adipose tissue, but also a very rapidly
weight loss could contribute to physical frailty syndrome. In general terms,
weight loss is not dangerous when is slow and supervised, and resulted from diet
associated with physical exercises.
Adolescents represent another category with many perspectives and social
issues, continuously increasing in the world today, where health and education
are priorities. Unfortunately, both the educational and the health system does not
always provide youth and adolescents fundamentals needed to build a healthy
lifestyle. While medical research investigations has focused on adolescent
perception about unhealthy behaviours (smoking and alcohol drinking, drug
abuse and fast-food alimentation), the social determinants of health were
considered personal and parental economical and educational status,
employment opportunities, emigration or social exclusion [23-25]. Current
existing data describe worrying phenomena that develop within adolescents
groups (obesity, lack of concentration, social isolation or negative social
comportment, deviant behaviour expressed as aggression, alcohol, tobacco, and
other substances, etc.), generated by adopting an improper and unhealthy
lifestyle.
Women health and lifestyle importance is very much related to some life
periods like pregnancy and menopause. Although older studies underlined some
beneficial effects of estrogens for vascular system, these positive actions have
been challenged by the results of the Women's Health Initiative trial and the
Million Women Study, which demonstrated an increase in cardiovascular risk
and related adverse events. Evaluation, treatment and changing in lifestyle are
needed for controlling the important comorbidities associated with menopause:
hypertension, dyslipidemia, obesity, diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome,
sleeping disorders, depression, osteoporosis and sexual dysfunction [26]. All this
perturbations should be holistic approached, in terms of traditional and
alternative therapies [27].
3.2. Healthy lifestyle modern guidelines for cardio-metabolic disease
prevention
In this field, European and American joint team researchers and
physicians established evidence-based comprehensive guidelines. For example,
in 2012, was updated, the European Guidelines on Cardiovascular Disease
Prevention in Clinical Practice, which contain detailed recommendations for
people in different risk categories, at different ages, with a special focus on
patients with metabolic syndrome [28]. The guidelines start with strategies for
risk estimation. At a population level, in the people without a previous
Dima-Cozma et al/European Journal of Science and Theology 10 (2014), 3, 111-120
118
established cardiovascular disease, the family doctors should use SCORE
diagram, based on age, gender, and some risk factors like hypertension, smoking
and dyslipidemia. The authors suggested that total risk assessment should be
offered during a consultation to physician if:
the person asks for it;
one or more risk factors such as smoking, overweight, or hyperlipidaemia
are known;
there is a family history of premature cardiovascular disease or of major
risk factors such as hyperlipidaemia;
there are symptoms suggestive of cardiovascular disease.
In 2012, the guidelines recommended also a brief evaluation of
psychosocial risk factors that can contribute to increase the cardiovascular and
metabolic risk: low socio-economic status, lack of social support, stress at work
and in family life, depression, anxiety, hostility, and the type D personality.
These factors act as barriers to treatment adherence and efforts to improve
lifestyle, as well as to promoting health and wellbeing in patients and
populations” [28] In addition, the psychobiological mechanisms have been
identified to interfere with inflammation and endothelial dysfunction to promote
pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease [28, 29]. Other non-traditional risk
factors as C reactive protein, homocysteine and lipoprotein-associated
phospholipase 2, should be screened in case of high-risk patients.
The guidelines offer precise recommendations about the level of physical
activity that should be encouraged and the principles of nutrition. “In healthy
subjects, growing levels of both physical activity and cardio-respiratory fitness
were associated with a significant reduction (2030%) in risk of all-cause and
cardiovascular mortality [28]
For nutrition, are presented some key messages:
energy intake should be limited to the amount of energy needed to maintain
(or obtain) a healthy weight (body mass index 25 kg/m2);
if a person follow the rules for a healthy diet, no dietary supplements are
needed;
the main characteristics of a healthy diet are: saturated fatty acids should be
replaced by polyunsaturated fatty acids, salt is reduced to ˂ 5 g/day, are
recommended 200 g fruit, 200 g vegetables and 30-45 g of fibre per day,
consumption of alcohol should be limited at 20 g/day for men and 10g/day
for women [28].
4. Conclusion
Preventive medicine has gained new achievements in recent years and was
organized to formulate comprehensive guidelines on population and particular
disease categories. Extension to social is becoming more evident and there were
individualized social risk factors that interact with those medical traditional.
Health population programs must be more extensive but it is important to target
specific groups such as postmenopausal women, the elderly and adolescents.
The importance of healthy lifestyle in modern society
119
Healthy lifestyle have to be learned in childhood and must include all
components related to diet, dietary supplements, rest and relaxation, stress
management, physical activity. Personalized lifestyle medicine will become the
future of medicine in order to effectively prevent and treat disease, including
using of modern technological advances.
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... are contributing to increases in the risk of CVD, obesity, diabetes, malignancy, mental disorders and cognitive dysfunction. [7,8] Research shows that eating practices and nutritional intake may have long-term impacts on health. [9] In recent decades, dietary habits in the UAE have changed considerably due to socio-economic and lifestyle changes. ...
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... Human nutrition is of the entirely central, unique importance in people's lives, ever more highlighted in the current world heavily burdened with civilisation diseases. Proper nutrition is one of the healthy lifestyle constituents (Dima-Cozma et al., 2014;Machová and Kubátová, 2015). Unlike that, malnutrition, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption or poor physical activity are seen by Machová and Kubátová (2015) as the main injurious factors to health. ...
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Dietary habits of every human impact her or his health. The society-wide situation with regard to the dietary habits is not positive according to the existent surveys, and the same applies to the college students. This paper goal is to identify the dietary habits frequented among the college students at a selected institution (a case study); evaluate the habits; and, propose actions for the institution under review, aimed to positively influence their students' dietary habits. The paper has been designed as a case study, while the data has been obtained from the evaluation of a quantitative survey (based on an executed questionnaire survey) including the total of n = 219 college students of the selected educational institution. As revealed by the results, there is a statistically significant difference in the students' dietary habits according to gender and age category. © 2008 Mendel University of Agriculture and Forestry Brno. All rights reserved.
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In this article, we discuss findings of an ethnographic exploring how Canadian youth frame health within the context of their life situations. Seventy-one youth (12 to 19 years of age) from diverse ethnic backgrounds and residing in a major city in western Canada took part in the study.We used traditional ethnographic methods of interviewing and fieldwork, as well as photovoice. Sociocultural themes emerging from the study indicate that even though youth have a broad understanding of health that includes acknowledging the many different types of health beyond physical health, lifestyle factors such as healthy eating and exercise nonetheless dominate the talk of health by youth. The results highlight that the concept of health normalized by academics and public policy experts-as being inclusive of the broader determinants of health-might not be congruent with how youth regard health.
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Four principles are taken as basis for the ethical analysis: autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence, and justice. Health is understood as a limited aspect of wellbeing. Food is understood as an important aspect of wellbeing, not only an instrument for health. Modern society is characterized by a tendency to identify wellbeing with external rather than subjective circumstances, to identify wellbeing with health, and to create exaggerated health expectations. Based upon this understanding, aspects of personalized nutrition are discussed: genetic testing, counselling, and development of special dietary products. Today the predictive value of genetic tests for personal nutrition is limited, and experimental at best. Recommendations for the future: Personalized nutrition must be based on solid knowledge. Phenotypic analyses should be used when adequate. When a genetic test can have a clear advantage, this should be preferred. Opportunistic screening should only be used when clearly beneficial. Specially trained persons should collect information from genetic tests and carry through councelling on a personal basis. Marketing of genetic tests directly sold to the public should be discouraged. Development of special products for personalized nutrition may be necessary in some cases. However, this may also lead to a medicalization of diet.