HEALTH AND HOW TO MAINTAIN IT.
BY A PHYSICIAN.
Of all the blessings of life, the greatest is considered to be health. Health is said to be Heavenly bliss. Health is even said to be wealth. Health consists in the normal state and harmonious relations of the human constitution-Mental and Physical. But how few know, rather, but few of us realize that this great blessing is not a mere accident or the free gift of nature, but the result of patient attention to small things and a great deal of care bestowed on minutiae. The tendency for health might be inherited so also might be the tendency for disease. The greatest thing that parents could do for their progeny is to see that they do not communicate or transmit any diseased mental moral or physical propensity to it. This is a great responsibility and parents who are conscientious ought to remember it. Those that violate the laws of health-might well ponder over the fact that the effects of their violation might be inherited by their children or their children's children. Environment makes or mars the inherited tendencies. Human effort must be directed not only to create a healthy stock but also to place it in a healthy environment. Health is said to be wealth and yet who would consider the latter merely a gift from others and would not exert himself to get it. Every stone is patiently turned, every hardship cheerfully borne, every privation willingly undergone and every enterprise boldly undertaken when there is even a remote chance of getting a fortune. Economic success means scrupulous attention to small things, taking care of pies and toiling, hard day and night. But who takes such trouble about health? Yet is it not the best form of wealth one could possess on earth? The whole fabric of our health depends on the due attention we pay to several trifling things in life. Moderation in food and drink, regularity in rest and activity, work and play properly adjusted, mental, moral, and physical activities duly and carefully regulated, the avoidance of excesses, the faithful adoption of the rule of the golden mean, these are some of the many small things one has to pay scrupulous attention to if one should desire to enjoy good health in life. The span of human life depends on the health it enjoys during its pilgrimage on this planet of ours. If we are not healthy and strong we will be a burden to our kith and kin."If I am not well, strong and happy,
I am thrice a debtor first to myself;
Second to every human being,
And third to the cosmos of the universe."
--- Sidney A. Weltmer.
Our labors are of no avail if we cannot maintain a healthy life here. Health deserves careful consideration – as an able writer remarks, "the first requisite to success in life is to be a good animal." An expression used by a Roman poet has been called the golden rule of education – a sound mind in a sound body. The ignorant suppose that health is beyond their control. It is true that we are yet unacquainted with the origin of some diseases, but undoubtedly more than half the sickness in the world is owing to the disregard of certain known laws of nature. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the raiment we put on our bodies, practically sum up all the most important conditions of our existence, - our health and our physical development – Let me deal with them under their respective headings:-
The air we breathe. This is the first requisite. We can live several days without food, but we die in two or three minutes if kept without air. The evil effects of overcrowding are, to a considerable extent, due to foul air. Many are rendered feeble and sickly for want of fresh air. Every time we breathe we inhale a part of the air which supports life and give out a poisonous kind of gas. The air we breathe out should therefore be allowed to escape and fresh air should be admitted. Most Indian houses are badly ventilated. Bed rooms are often small, frequently they have only one little window. It is also a common practice to crowd bed rooms with boxes and other articles still further diminishing the capacity of the room and thus lessening the quantity of air. Many persons when they go to sleep wrap a cloth over their heads, which impedes breathing.
If we wish to be vigorous we must secure a sufficient supply of fresh air. The average house in India, it is said is built cold proof, in fact more air-tight than the most air-tight house ever built in England. Free ventilation, large houses with wide open windows are most essential to get a fresh supply of air.
The water we drink:- A great deal of sickness is caused by drinking impure water, people often bathe and wash clothes in tanks, whose water is used for drinking purposes; even cattle are allowed to go into them. The water of tanks which dry up or get very low in the hot season is unwholesome. Decaying vegetation is a fruitful cause of fever. Trees and bamboos should not be allowed to overhang tanks and wells, as their leaves fall into the water and render it unwholesome. Water on which the sun does not shine is generally not good.
Bath and its uses:- The art of bathing is one of the precious assets for which modern civilization is indebted to antiquity. The desire for cleaning the body by washing seems to be the discovery of the human instinct. The more civilized the people are, the more alive they become to the necessity of bathing in order to keep the body clean. So bathing, they say, might be considered a test of civilization in the modern world. In regard to baths one has to take into consideration the climate of the country also, because the cooler the climate is, the less inclined the people will be for frequent baths. Cleaning of the skin is particularly necessary in hot climates when the amount of watery sweat and solid excretion and desquamation from it is considerable, the skin performing a part of the function which belongs to the kidney's and lungs in colder climates. In hot climates a daily bath becomes a necessity, whereas, in a cold climate it might be a luxury. From the scientific point of view, baths could never become a luxury. For baths have a double function to perform. The first and the foremost of the two is to keep the body clean and the other to regulate the temperature of the body. Looked at from both points of view, a daily bath becomes a necessity in any climate, be it hot or cold.
A great many people, as for that, many educated and cultured people who should know better, take for granted that what is wanted for a bath is to get into water and come out of it with an occasional scrubbing of the skin. This might satisfy the conscience of a ceremonious puritan, but the medical man is too scrupulous to reckon such a process under the category of baths. The human skin contains minute openings on its surface. Besides these the skin contains many glands which secrete oil or sweat into these pores. The sweat contains water, salt and many deleterious matters generated in the body. It is essential that the pores be open so that the sweat might easily pass out through them freeing the body of its poisonous substances. Frequently dust accumulates on the skin and blocks the pores. This blocking of the pores prevents the free exit of the sweat. The poisonous matter in the body, being prevented an escape through the skin, attempts to escape through the lungs and the kidneys thus throwing too much work on these organs. So it would now appear how important it is to have the pores of the skin clean. Every effort should be made to remove the dust as soon as it gathers on the skin, to prevent its blocking the pores. Water has the property of dissolving dirt. Hot water is reputed to have better solvent properties than cold water. But the only substances on the surface of the skin need also be dissolved and removed. Hence arises the necessity for using soap. Some good soaps contain an excess of alkaline substances, which possess a remarkable affinity for oily or fatty substances found in the body and elsewhere. So when soap solution is applied to the skin and the latter scrubbed thoroughly, there is every chance of the dirt and oil being removed completely from the skin, and the pores permit a free exit of copious perspiration. These baths that are not calculated to remove the dust and fat from the skin do not deserve to be called baths from the scientific point of view. Business people who frequently get out must realize how important it is for their health that they should bathe frequently and efficiently. Mere pouring of water over the body serves no useful purpose. Some fat dissolving substances like soap must become a prerequisite of baths. The other most important function of baths is to regulate the temperature of the body. In cold weather, bodily warmth might be preserved and even increased by having recourse to hot water baths. In hot weather nothing is more efficacious in cooling down the heat of the body than cold baths. "Our life," it is said, "is a simple process constantly needing attention to simple things". It may be a surprise to many to realize to what great extent their health and well-being depend on the proper performance of a simple act, like their daily bath.
The food we eat:- The importance of food seems to be so obvious that any attention drawn to it might be considered needless. "But often the most important aspects of life are those that are most neglected and what is everybody's business is generally nobody's. Expectation often fails where most it promises and the simpler a thing is the more frequently it evades our grasp, because it is so simple" are the words of an eminent doctor. Cooked food has many advantages over raw food, the most important of them being that it is more palatable and is more easily digested. The great majority of fruits do not need cooking, for when they ripen, they usually attain the most digestive consistency, besides possessing the most tempting flavor.
Women seem to take to cooking instinctively all the world over, but man does so through sheer necessity. In the rush and haste of modern life there is danger of underrating the importance of food and considering it only a necessary evil. Ignorance is not the only cause for the consumption of bad food. While the physical development of the race depends on both the quantity and quality of the food it consumes, still greater emphasis should be laid on the latter. There is no law more frequently broken in life than that of temperature as regards quantity of food we eat. We generally forger that we eat to live, and behave as if we believe the converse proposition. Our digestive organs are very sensitive and their functions have therefore to be studied and honored. Particular attention must be paid to the quantity and quality of food we eat. It should neither be too little nor too much. In the former case emaciation and weakness ensue, whereas the danger in the latter case is indigestion, dyspepsia and the ultimate physical and mental breakdown of the human organism. The quality of the food should be neither too rich nor too poor. It is difficult to say at the outset what the kind and the amount of food a man or a woman needs. They are relative to the ages, conditions and occupations of the people. Hard physical exertion needs rich food, food that is capable of giving flesh and bone; mental work needs easily assailable food, food that increases energy and brain power. The fewer the meals taken and the longer the interval between the meals the better it is for health. The most important thing in diet is to see that the diet allowed for each day contains the proper proportion of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, Cereals, cheese, nuts, eggs and oat meal contain proportionately great quantities of proteins; butter and cheese of fats; Rice, potatoes, etc., of carbohydrates. Fruit and animal food in three or four hours. One may construct a table of diet for oneself, according to one's age, sex, occupation, present condition of health and environment.
It is strange that men should take to poisoning themselves with poisonous and crave forming foods and drugs which they know to be deadly, and in spite of this knowledge be quite unable to resist the temptations to take them. Health, wealth, position, fame and family happiness are all sacrificed one after before the poison crave. Men who once were reasonable beings become in the course of years mere self-indulgent sots, furious wild animals or finally dangerous and unrestrainable lunatics.
This is the characteristic of all stimulation either through food or drug.
Meat the unnatural food is a stimulant and once having begun stimulation men were forced to go on and to constantly increase the dose. After a meat diet one feels vigorous for some time.
But a diet consisting of cereals, fruits, nuts, vegetables, milk, honey and such natural and humane diet will give us a cleaner body, a healthier mentality and a higher morality. The use of the 3'F's i.e., flesh, fish and fowl as food is unhygienic, unnatural. Purity, Humanitarianism, and Temperance in all things, make us sensible, right, decent, stronger, healthier, happier, and clear-headed.
Adequate sleep:- Sleep is defined as the process of resting with the voluntary exercise of the powers of mind suspended. The difference between a man who is sleeping and the man who is awake depends upon the fact that the former is bereft, for the time being, of all voluntary action. Sleep is intended to give both mental and physical rest. Those that do mental work need longer hours of sleep than those whose daily avocations of life involve merely physical strain. In sleeping one ought to study the posture of the body during sleep. Also one must try to give rest to as many muscles of the body as possible by bringing them in contact with the bed. To sleep on the right side is considered scientific and on the left side unscientific, as it embarrasses the action of the heart. The night is usually the best time for sleep. It is a popular conception that one ought to sleep before midnight. As regards the length of time one should sleep, it is needless to say any definite rules. But it must be clearly understood that idle lying in bed is not sleep and therefore cannot do much good. The harder one's work is and the greater one's activities are, the longer should one sleep. In cold climate people usually sleep eight hours at one stretch. In hot climates one needs longer sleep; at all events, not less than eight hours sleep should be the rule. After all sleep is a means but not an end, so it is best to keep it under control. This is the sagest maxim to remember when one wishes to live a healthy life to sleep so long as to feel quite refreshed when waking up in the morning. It is better to sleep a little longer than not. Cutting short the hours of sleep, whether it be for work or pleasure, is a penny –wise and pound foolish policy.
Clothing, its uses and purposes:- Clothing has two objects in view, the one that it keeps in the body its own heat and the other being that it prevents the speedy conduction to it of external warmth or cold. Loosely flowing robes allow the free entrance of air between the skin and the robes and therefore they would not let the air conduct away the warmth from the body or communicate to it external heat or cold. The quality of clothing also influence its conductivity. Silk and wool are reputed as very bad conductors. The latter keeps the body warm in cold season, because it preserves the heat of the body and does not conduct it away rapidly. The former is very useful in summer because it is such a bad conductor, of external warmth to the body. Silk being a bad conductor, it would not conduct away rapidly the warmth of the body either. So even in cold season silk might serve the purpose of wool. It has again one greater advantage over wool, and that is the soft and agreeable feeling created when it comes in contact with the skin. It might not be out of place here to remark that those who have to wear flannel next to the skin in hot weather might with great comfort replace it with silk without much fear of serious consequences. Cold climates necessitate more clothing than warm climates. The object of clothing being protection, decency and ornament. Modern convention and dame Fashion often prescribe clothing which is neither beautiful nor hygienic. One ought, therefore, to get the courage to say nay to fashion, should its claim clash with those of science and one could get the courage to do it only when one understands the scientific basis of clothing.
Clothing must above all be clean and comfortable. Scrupulous cleanliness of the undergarments is most essential to health. They must frequently be changed and washed particularly when they are wet with sweat. In warm climate under-clothing should not be so tight-fitting as to interfere to any extent, with the ventilation of the body. The skin of the human beings needs light for its health, and clothing should not therefore interfere with either of them. The upper garments should be light and loose so as not to be uncomfortable in any posture of the body. It is best to protect the feet from venomous reptiles, like the snake and the scorpion, and also from disease germs. Care must be taken not to injure or crush the feet or toes by tight-fitting shoes or boots. To keep the feet warm is most important to health in cold countries. As regards head-dress, it should be such as not only to protect the head from the heat of the sun but also to shield the face, particularly the eyes, from the glare. In fact, scientific clothing should be according to the needs of the age, sex, occupation etc., of the individuals. Color as regards raiment is certainly not an unimportant matter. There is hardly any one that does not show partiality to some one color or other. The color of clothing has also its significance. White color is produced by the reflection of all the rays of light from the substance. So while clothing reflects all the rays of the sun's light that strike on it. Therefore there is very little absorption of heat and light by white clothing and it is on that account safely recommended as a scientific color for all warm and sunny countries. Again black color is produced by the substance which absorbs all the rays of light shed on it from the sun. There is no reflection of light from a black substance. Therefore black clothing absorbs light and heat. Yellow color has recently been noticed to be of great use in the tropics particularly for head-dress. Green colored clothes are very useful to the eye in countries where the glare of the sunlight is very great. Red color is reputed to have the power of producing excitement. It is needless to say that climatic considerations ought to influence the choice of the color of raiment, if one wishes to make oneself comfortable.
The importance of physical exercise can never be overestimated. To enjoy the conditions of modern civilization, a healthy body and a vigorous constitution are necessary. Physical exercise is necessary to regulate the blood supply of the body and to expel the waste products accumulated in the blood. Those who have much mental work daily need physical exercise as a recreation. The best form of recreation is to take an interest in games and sports. Games and sports, while affording physical exercise, engrosses the mind and helps to forget itself. The value of games is that not only are they trials of strength but, above all things, trials of skill. I need not mention here the moral and mental qualities one would acquire on the sporting field which would be of considerable individual value. Quickness of the eye, lightness of the step, nimbleness of the movement, calmness, patience and tact are developed to a wonderful degree on the sporting field. But there is always the danger of having too much of a good thing. Even physical exercises might be overdone. Over expenditure of energy must inevitably end in a speedy collapse. So one ought to guard against overdoing physical exercise and against cultivating an inordinate love for sports and games
Temperance:- This virtue in its widest sense denotes moderation in the indulgence of every appetite, and it is our duty to be temperate in all things. Temperance is especially applied to moderation with regard to eating and drinking. Intemperance now usually denotes drinking to excess.
Intemperance is a vice that ruins the body, the intellect and the moral character. A large number of medical men entirely forbid the use of alcohol in health and sickness, while those who consider it to be occasionally beneficial very strictly limit the quantity. We scarcely require the verdict of science to tell us the evil effects produced on the health by intemperance. We see those effects too often in the shaky hands and lack-lustre eyes of those who indulge in habitual excess. Alcohol shortens the lives of those who drink much, and insurance companies find that they can give policies for better terms to total abstainers than to those who are even moderate drinkers. The drunkard's brain becomes rapidly duller, his memory fails him and in extreme cases he is led by his favorite vice into the Lunatic Asylum. Nor does the general moral character remain unimpaired by the vicious indulgence that ruins the health and injures the intellect. Intemperance besides being a vice in itself, is the parent of other vices. Drunkards lose their self-respect, and do not shrink from degrading themselves by falsehood and dishonesty. They also lose the power of controlling their passions and so commit violent acts which they would never have done in their sober hours. It is scarcely necessary to add that intemperance is a great barrier to success in life. What impairs the power of body and mind must of course prevent a man from doing any work well. Charles Lamb thus describes the effects of intemperance:-
"Twelve years ago, I was possessed of a healthy frame of mind and body. I was never strong, but I think my constitution (for a weak one) was as happily exempt from the tendency to any malady as it was possible to be. I scarce knew what it was to ail anything. Now except when I am losing myself in a sea of drink, I am never free from those uneasy sensations in head and stomach, which are so much worse to bear than anything definite pains or aches. At that time I was seldom in bed after six in the morning, summer and winter. I awoke refreshed and seldom without some merry thoughts in my head, or some piece of song to welcome the new-born day. Now, the first feeling which besets me, after stretching out the hours of recumbence to their last possible extent, is a forecast of the wearisome duty that lies before me, with a secret wish that I could have laid on still, or never awakened.
"Life itself, my waking life, has much of the confusion, the trouble and obscure perplexity of an ill dream. In the day time I stumble upon dark mountains.
"Business, which, though never very particularly adapted to my nature, yet has something of necessity to be gone through, and therefore best undertaken with cheerfulness, I used to enter upon with some degree of alacrity; it now wearies, affrights and perplexes me. I fancy all sorts of discouragements, and am ready to give up an occupation, which gives me bread, from a harassing conceit of incapacity. The slightest commission given me by a friend, or any small duty which I have to perform for myself, as giving orders to a tradesmen etc., haunts me as a labor impossible to be got through. So much the springs of action are broken."
"The same cowardice attends me in all my intercourse with mankind. I dare not promise that a friend's honor, or his cause, could be safe in my keeping, if I were put to the expense of any manly resolution in defending it. So much the springs of moral action are deadened within me."
"My favorite occupations, in times past, now cease to entertain me. I can do nothing readily. Application for even so short a time kills me. The noble passages which formerly delighted me in history or poetic fiction now draw only a few weak tears allied to dotage. My broken and dispirited nature seems to sink before anything great and admirable. I perpetually catch myself in tears, for any cause or none. It is inexpressible how much this infirmity adds to a sense of shame and a general feeling of deterioration."
"TOTAL ABSTINENCE", to strive to the utmost, to check the ravages of a vice, to which already some of the brightest intellects have fallen victims. Such a course is demanded even by personal considerations. It has been well remarked "No reputation, no wisdom, nor hardly any worth, will secure a man against drunkenness". Total abstinence from all intoxicating liquors is the wisest and safest course.
Health, like happiness, comes not for the seeking. A great purpose – a mighty ambition – a divine longing only for such a motive is a clear brain and string body worth the getting.
When you are worn out, resort to the woods. When you are worried, ponder on the calmness of the sea. When you are nervous and uncertain, stretch yourself prone on the ground in the moonlight and watch the stars for hours. The frailness of man is more than reinforced by the fullness of nature.
A good for getter is health's right hand man. The name of the best forgetter is Hope.
Health, like heaven, is within. Realize the strength of your own body – the power of your own mind – the beauty of your own spirit.
Music is the quickest means of taking an invalid out of himself. Get a person interested in mastering an instrument or developing his voice, and you've done him a better service than doctor or nurse could muster.
Man has no right to be ill. Man is made to be well and happy and useful. And if a person is happy, the probabilities are that he will be well; and in order to keep well he has to be useful. Health is the most natural thing in the world. Nature is on our side. Health is the norm, and all nature tends thitherward. All that the wise and good doctors can do is to put the patient in touch with nature. Nature heals, and all the healing forces of nature are perfectly natural.