BIBLE RECOMMENDATION: It might seem bored to get to some words you have seen before, it's to remind you the prove of what we are doing.
We all want to
enjoy good health and avoid sickness and injury. So why not follow the health
guidance our Creator gave in His instruction manual?
advancements in Western civilization in the modern era are beyond amazing.
Human life expectancy was about 40 years in 1870 and today approaches 80. In
Western nations, the average person can expect to live roughly twice as long as
he or she would have 130 years ago.
can credit sophisticated medical treatments for doing much to extend life and
improve health. Surgery often provides a new lease on life, correcting a
life-threatening condition or dramatically enhancing the quality of life. Body
parts can sometimes be replaced, and new drugs often knock out infections.
of the world's health-care dollars are spent in trying to heal existing
diseases. If we are to live even healthier and longer lives, we must focus more
on prevention. Otherwise
old age will mean more time for illness because of the general decline in the
body's immunity as we age. We can offset this decline by practicing fundamental
health principles in such matters as diet, exercise and how we handle our
is solid evidence of the effectiveness of basic health practices in extending
and enhancing the quality of life. Note how behavioral changes have impacted
fatalities from heart disease: "A major study showing that the mortality
rate from heart disease has been dropping since 1963 also found that life-style
changes in diet and smoking habits —rather than new medical
treatments—accounted for over half of the decline" ( The Wellness Encyclopedia, 1991,
Let's consider some important health
principles. Practicing these will
help you live a longer and healthier life. These principles are backed by
extensive research in the health-care field and by the Bible. As we go through
these principles, remember that God wants us to live productive, healthy and useful
lives (John 10:10
You are what you eat.
is one of our most pleasurable activities, and God intended it to be so. His
creation is filled with a wonderful variety of tasty, nourishing, healthful
foods. However, the same appetites that add to life's pleasure can, if misused,
make us ill. Benjamin Franklin observed that "we should eat to live and
not live to eat." Of all health practices and habits, diet is the area
where we can help ourselves the most.
humanity's dietary problems have often consisted of a general condition of
malnutrition and hunger because of poverty. In the modern Western world, this
is no longer a major problem. A growing problem, however, is the increasing
consumption of junk food as a regular part of our diet. This is the result of
eating out more often and serving ready-made packaged foods at home. In the
United States "roughly half a family's food budget now goes on food eaten
out; and 45 percent of dinners eaten at home include not a single home-made
item" ( The Economist, Dec. 20, 1997).
other nations are following America's lead in gorging on such foods. Use of
prepared foods gives us less control over what we eat, and many such foods are
laden with fat and salt. Eating habits based on these foods "can bring
with them heart disease, strokes and cancer, the so-called diseases of
affluence that accompany the adoption of high-fat, low-exercise 'Western
lifestyles'" ( Newsweek, June 1, 1998).
dietary practices also cause weight problems. "The most recent official
figures, from the National Centre for Health Statistics, show that more than
half of all Americans are now overweight . . . [and] most countries
are following suit. The rate of obesity in Britain has more than doubled since
1980" ( The Economist, Dec.
20, 1997). A survey taken in Britain "shows that one-third of those aged
16-24 were overweight or obese" ( The Independent, December
Overweight is a major contributor to
serious health conditions. "A
16-year study conducted on 115,000 nurses, published in the September 14, 1995,
issue of The New England Journal of
Medicine, concluded that even a moderate weight gain—as
little as 18 pounds—put otherwise-healthy women at increased risk for heart
disease, cardiovascular death, and cancer" (Steven Jonas, M.D., and Linda
Konner, Just the Weigh You Are, 1997,
men are at risk as well. "Men who are 30 percent overweight have a 70
percent higher risk of developing coronary heart disease than those at their
recommended weight level" ( The Wellness Encyclopedia, p.
23). Overweight people are also more likely to suffer hypertension (high blood
to the American Cancer Society, about one third of the 500,000 cancer-related
deaths in the United States each year are because of dietary factors. High-fat
diets have been linked with an elevation of cancer of the colon, rectum,
prostate, endometrium and even the lungs. High levels of meat consumption may
bring susceptibility to colon cancer. "The disease is some ten times more
common in meat-eating, industrialized societies than in the less well-stuffed
peoples who depend for sustenance on plant foods high in fiber" (Sherwin
Nuland, How We Live, 1997,
Consuming a diet rich in fruits,
vegetables, grains and beans can reduce the risk of cancer. These foods are all rich in fiber and low in fat.
They also contain many beneficial vitamins and minerals.
few years ago the National Cancer Institute (NCI) instituted a "five-a-day
program." The idea was to exhort everyone to eat a combination of at least
five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. The NCI believes that if people
make this simple change in their dietary habits, the number of new cancer cases
will be dramatically reduced.
evidence for the benefits of eating a lot of fruits and vegetables is
overwhelming. "Scientists argue about many issues, but everybody agrees
that increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables can help prevent heart
disease, cancer and other chronic diseases" ( University of California
at Berkeley Wellness Letter, February 1995).
healthy diet doesn't have to be bland. Notice the following description of a
balanced, healthful diet: "Vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes are
preferred foods, since they are typically low in fat and rich in complex carbohydrates,
dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. But meats, poultry, fish, and dairy
products also contain a wealth of nutrients. Some of these foods are high in
fat, and so should be consumed in moderation. But there is no reason to give
them up entirely" (Sheldon Margen, The Wellness Encyclopedia
of Food and Nutrition, 1992, p. 9).
The dietary practices reflected in the
Bible have much in common with this recommendation. "The ordinary food of the average Hebrew of
Bible times was bread, olives, oil, buttermilk and cheese from their flocks;
fruits and vegetables from their orchards and gardens; and meat on rare
occasions" (Fred Wight, Manners and Customs of
Bible Lands, 1987, p.
The Bible Almanac makes a similar observation. "Vegetable products
formed a major portion of the diet . . . When meat was used, it was
often for the purpose of serving strangers or honored guests. Grains were an
important part of the diet . . . Fruits and fish were a favorite part
of the diet" (Packer, Tenney and White, editors, 1980, p. 465).
The diet of Bible times was probably a
factor in longevity. In David's time,
it seems to have been common for adults to reach 70 years of age (Psalm 90:10
Many lived far longer. Modern life expectancy didn't reach 70 until about 1955.
Bible also gives detailed lists of what animals, birds and fish are appropriate
or inappropriate for human consumption (Leviticus 11:1-30
have linked various health problems to consumption of some of the prohibited
items. The avoidance of eating some
of the creatures on the list is clearly a matter of common sense. (To learn
more, be sure to read our booklet What
Does the Bible Teach About Clean and Unclean Meats? )
for your health
"Physical training is of some
value" (1 Timothy 4:8)
surgeon general of the United States released a report that stated that
"regular physical activity reduces the risk for developing or dying from
coronary heart disease, noninsulin-dependent diabetes, hypertension, and colon
cancer; reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression; contributes to the
development and maintenance of healthier bones, muscles, and joints and helps
control weight" ( Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, July
12, 1996, p. 591).
need not be overly taxing to be beneficial. Even moderate physical activity,
such as working in the yard or gardening, promotes health and fitness.
the modern era most people exercised as part of their normal routine. Most
occupations involved considerable physical activity. Families often grew much
of their own food. In comparison, most jobs today are sedentary, and we buy
most of our food at the supermarket.
1985 and 1990 America saw a 15 per-cent decline in exercise among people in
their 20s. The decline among other age groups was about half this ( Wellness Letter, July
1995). "One American in four admits to being completely sedentary, and
another 40 percent rarely exercise" ( The Economist, Dec.
the frantic pace and structure of modern life, it is difficult to obtain sufficient
exercise without a regular program. The younger you are when you begin a
regular exercise program the better, but it is never too late. A recent study
confirms that "much of the functional losses that set in between the ages
of 30 and 70 are . . . attributable to lack of exercise" ( Wellness Letter, May
1995). One way we deteriorate as we age is in decreased effectiveness of heart
and lungs. Beginning even a moderate exercise program will help slow or even
reverse this deterioration.
exercise comes in many forms. Running, cycling, swimming and working out at
health clubs or on home exercise machines are all popular. Although certain
costs are connected with all of these, exercise need not be expensive.
the least expensive and most convenient way for many people to exercise is to
walk. The primary expense is a decent pair of shoes. Brisk walking produces
cardiovascular function, increases flexibility and leads to a longer life.
"A long-term study of thousands of Harvard alumni has suggested that a
regimen of walking (an average of nine miles a week) can significantly prolong
life" ( The Wellness Encyclopedia, p. 252).
older people and those suffering from partially debilitating infirmities, even
slow walking brings benefits. There is also some indication that, because
walking is a weight-bearing exercise, it may help prevent osteoporosis in
additional benefit of exercise—especially if combined with eating better—is
weight loss. But even if you do not lose significant weight, don't quit
exercising. It could be that you are replacing fat with muscle, which is
heavier than fat. And in some cases the tendency to be heavier than what is
considered normal is partially a function of genetics. Such people still
benefit from a fitness program.
research supports the notion that, even if you remain overweight, working out
and becoming fit can help you live longer. In one study done at the Cooper
Institute for Aerobics Research, in Dallas, more than 25,000 obese men were
given an initial health exam that included a treadmill test and a body-fat
assessment. Eight years later, they were retested, and the men who were
moderately fit or very fit had a 70 percent lower mortality rate than unfit men
. . . Mortality rates, it was concluded, were more influenced by the
men's fitness levels than by their weight" (Jonas and Konner, p. 41).
Time to recharge
Sufficient sleep is essential to good
health. Prolonged sleep loss can
bring many problems. Laboratory experiments with rats and dogs have
demonstrated that animals will die if denied sleep for too long. Although we
can endure short-term sleep loss with no serious side effects, extensive or
prolonged sleep deprivation brings physical, mental and psychological
lack of sufficient sleep is a relatively recent phenomenon. Late in the 19th
century Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb, enabling us to
virtually turn night into day and increasing our potential for productive
hours. But his wonderful invention brought both positive and negative
consequences. Many people view sleep as unproductive down time. "By some
estimates, we're sleeping as much as an hour and a half less per night than we
did at the turn of the century" ( Newsweek, Jan. 12, 1998).
indicator that many struggle with sleep is that in 1977 there were three
certified sleep clinics in America and by 1997 the number had grown to 337.
Sleep loss can be disastrous. The Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Chernobyl explosion,
the Three Mile Island incident and the Challenger space-shuttle disaster have all been
blamed in part on sleepy personnel. The U.S. Department of Transportation
estimates that sleepy drivers cause more than 100,000 accidents every year,
resulting in at least 1,500 deaths. A drowsy driver will make mistakes in
judgment, and a driver who falls asleep at the wheel is a threat to himself and
everyone else nearby.
sleep loss reduces the body's resistance to infection. Studies have shown that,
in general, when healthy people miss sleep their bodies produce fewer cells to
fight off infection. "Experiments on volunteers have ascertained that two
or three days of sleep deprivation will produce significant reductions in
various aspects of immune function" (Paul Martin, M.D., The Healing Mind, 1997, p. 70).
falling asleep or remaining asleep is called insomnia. In America,
"according to several national surveys, between 15 and 25 percent of the
adult population complain about insomnia" ( The Wellness Encyclopedia, p. 421).
simple practices are available through which we can enhance our ability to get
sound, restful sleep. Regular physical exercise is one. Many sedentary
occupations produce intense mental strain. Physical exercise helps expend this
pent-up tension, bringing about natural fatigue that prepares the body for
is best, however, to refrain from strenuous exercise close to bedtime. Curbing
your intake of stimulants also helps bring better sleep. This includes reduction
of caffeine and total abstention from it in the latter part of the day. Tobacco
is a problem because nicotine is a stimulant, speeding up the metabolic
process. Heavy smokers sleep more lightly and less restfully (ibid., p. 422).
you work late at night and then go to bed expecting to sleep, you may
experience frustration. Try ceasing your work or intense mental activity about
an hour before bedtime and do something relaxing. Other helpful habits include
keeping regular hours for going to bed and getting up. A warm bath before
bedtime can help induce sleep too.
still puzzle over exactly why sleep is necessary, but they know it is. When we
sleep, our bodies release a growth hormone that some researchers believe is
used to renew worn-out tissue.
helps restore our bodies and minds. To feel good and function effectively, we
must have sufficient sleep. Without it we lose our ability to concentrate and
make complex decisions. Don't rob yourself of the sleep and rest your body and
Take care to avoid injury
of the health hazards we encounter have a gradual effect upon us. Accidents are an exception. You can be diligent and
conscientious in caring for your body, but if you slip up in a careless moment
your health can be irreparably damaged in a split second in a single tragic
or riding in a car may be the most dangerous thing most people do. Millions are
injured and tens of thousands die every year. In 2005, according to the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 43,443 people were killed and
2.7 million injured in the United States alone.
accidents could be prevented with caution and safe driving habits. "If you
are a typical low-risk driver, you are more than 1,000 times less likely to die
in a car crash than a high-risk driver" ( Wellness Letter, April
belts and airbags save many from severe injury and loss of life. They would
save more if everyone used them. In the United States "sixty-nine percent
of adults in front seats buckle up nationwide, one of the lowest rates of any
developed country. Australia, Canada and most European countries have belt use
rates of more than 90 percent" (Portland Oregonian, Nov. 19, 1998).
America "drivers who are least likely to wear seat belts are actually the
ones who need them most; they tend to be males under 35 . . . and
have more crashes and driving violations" ( Wellness Letter, August
adults don't use seat belts, they endanger children too. Many careless adults
do not make sure the children in their care are adequately restrained.
Children, following their parents' example, fail to use seat belts too. As a
result, of the 2,087 children killed in U.S. automobile crashes in 1997,
"six out of 10 of them were not secured in seat belts or child seats. The
same held for the more than 100,000 children who suffered injuries requiring
medical attention" ( Portland Oregonian, Nov.
the injuries are not generally as serious, more people are injured at home than
in traffic accidents. In America "household accidents injure more people
each year than car and workplace accidents combined" ( Parade, Feb.
15, 1998). It is estimated that 90 percent of these accidents could be
prevented. Major sources of home accidents are power lawn equipment and falls,
particularly from ladders.
in particular are prone to accidents. Common causes of childhood injury around
the house are poisonings, drownings, falls, accidental shootings, fires and
burns. Parents should realize that the leading cause of drowning of children
less than one year old is in buckets, bathtubs and toilets.
with toys are common. Many children visit emergency rooms every year after
being injured with baseball bats. Younger children, who have not developed fine
muscle control, are susceptible to bicycle injuries, particularly if not
wearing a helmet. Most bicyclists' injuries involve the head, and three of four
cyclists who die in crashes die of head injuries ( Wellness Encyclopedia, p.
children must have close supervision to avoid injury, but it is impossible to
supervise them every minute. The best long-term protection you can give
children is to instill safety habits in them as they mature.
complete personal health-care program will include guarding against accidental
injury. Wise people are wary of dangers, while the careless stumble into
trouble. "A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep
going and suffer for it" (Proverbs
It is outside the scope of this
publication to address illegal-drug usage at length. Generally, illegal
substances are declared to be so because of their obvious destructive effects upon
society. Anyone who is using an illegal substance should immediately cease,
entering a treatment program if necessary.
legal, and one of the most profitable of cash crops, tobacco probably causes
more damage to the health of its users than any other substance. "The
global proliferation of cigarettes leads to an estimated 3 million deaths a
year . . . By 2020, the number is estimated by the World Health
Organization, to reach 10 million a year" (Carl Sagan,Billions& Billions, 1997,
number of premature deaths from tobacco use is staggering in comparison to
other causes of premature death. "Take a random sample of a thousand young
men who smoke; on the basis of actuarial data it can confidently be predicted
that one of these young men will eventually be murdered, six will be killed on
the roads and two hundred and fifty will die prematurely from the effects of
smoking" (Martin, p. 59).
Tobacco is a deadly substance. Its smoke "contains more than 4,000 chemicals
including trace amounts of such known poisons as cyanide, arsenic, and
formaldehyde. There are 43 known cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens) in
tobacco smoke" ( Mayo Clinic Family Health Book, 1996,
users raise their susceptibility to numerous diseases, including a variety of
cancers, cardiovascular ailments, sexual dysfunction and lung diseases,
including emphysema. "Each year smoking kills more than 400,000 Americans,
more than died in battle in World War II and the Vietnam war combined"
(ibid., p. 316).
not only shortens life, but its detrimental effects often deprive smokers of
the opportunity to live an active life to the full. This is ironic because
cigarette advertising typically associates smoking with vigorous outdoor
activities. Smokers are shown skiing, hiking, swimming, playing ball games and
the like. The reality is that continued tobacco use damages the heart and
lungs, eventually reducing the smoker's activities and bringing on premature
From a biblical standpoint, smoking is
wrong because God tells us we should not inflict harm on the bodies He gave us.
We are told, "Honor God with your body" (1 Corinthians 6:20
also tells us, in the first of the Ten Commandments, that
we are to have no other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3)
Bible does not forbid the use of alcoholic beverages. It presents wine as a source of pleasure (Psalm 104:15). However,
the Bible does give strong warnings about the abuse of alcohol (Proverbs 20:1; Ephesians5:18)
of a positive outlook.
idea that positive thoughts and emotions help promote physical health and that
negative ones tear it down was long a tenet of folk wisdom. However, the
concept fell out of favor after scientific experimentation in the 19th century
established a clear connection between microbial agents and infectious
diseases. The idea that one's state of mind could affect bodily health was more
or less discarded. In the last few decades, however, some in the medical
community have taken a closer look and revived this ancient wisdom.
negative emotions hinder the body's immunity, can we expect positive emotions
to provide a boost? Yes, we can! Some 3,000 years ago God inspired this
observation to be recorded for us: "A merry heart does good, like
medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones" (Proverbs 17:22
truth of these words is borne out by many scientific studies. Positive emotions assist in the prevention of illness
and, if one does become ill, they can help speed recovery. "Scientists
have investigated the notion and found compelling evidence to suggest that
social environment and mental attitude can modify our chances of surviving cancer"
(Martin, p. 230).
in a University of London study assessed women's psychological response to
breast cancer. A follow-up study after five years showed that those who
displayed an initial fighting response were more likely to survive. A survey of
the same women conducted 15 years later revealed that "those who had
originally displayed a fighting spirit or denial continued to fare better: 45
per cent of them were still alive, and free from cancer, as against 17 per cent
of the women who had reacted initially with stoic acceptance, helplessness or
anxious preoccupation" (ibid.).
effect of mental stress on health appears to be illustrated in developments in
the former Soviet Union in recent years. "Between 1990 and 1994
. . . life expect-ancy for Russian men and women declined
dramatically from 63.8 and 74.4 years to 57.7 and 71.2 years,
respectively." Authorities cite many factors, "including economic and
social instability, high rates of tobacco and alcohol consumption, poor nutrition
[and] depression" ( The Journal of the
American Medical Association, March
often refer to a fighting response to illness as the will to live. This will
can be strengthened by a number of factors. One of the keys is to believe in
and be committed to a cause in life. "A raft of recent scientific studies
has established that having deep personal convictions and values can do wonders
for almost every aspect of your physical and emotional well-being"
(Cooper, pp. 3-4). Faith in the Creator God and knowledge of His purpose
provide a strong reason to live and a spark to our mental and physical health.
ability to manage stress and maintain a healthy mental outlook is one of the
essential elements of good health. As Proverbs 18:14tells us, "The spirit
of a man will sustain him in sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit?"
People who need people.
thousand years ago God inspired a scripture to be written that says, "It
is not good that man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18) Social
isolation, on the other hand, can be a substantial risk factor for ill health.
"Its impact on health and mortality is comparable to that of high blood
pressure, obesity and lack of exercise. Research suggests that social factors
can have as much impact on health as smoking . . . A six-year study
of 17,433 Swedish men and women found that those who had the fewest social
interactions and least social relationships had a mortality rate 50 per cent
higher than those with rich social lives" (ibid., pp. 158-159).
is sad that forces in society often drive people apart instead of pulling them
together. Little attention is paid to the importance of relationships—or what
the Bible calls love—in the pursuit of good health. Many parents who have
tenderly cared for an ill child believe in a connection between health and
are many ways we can apply the health principle. One is to enrich our personal
relationships, to learn how to love more fully in marriage, raising children
and friendships. Another way is to be involved with your neighbors.
Volunteering and serving others is a proven way of benefiting yourself as well
as those whom you serve.
to God through church involvement can provide health benefits. A study at the
University of Texas Medical School examined the relationship between mortality
and involvement in religious or social activities among recipients of
open-heart surgery. "Those who neither had regular group participation nor
drew strength and comfort from their religion were more than seven times more
likely to die six months after surgery" (Dean Ornish, M.D., Love & Survival, 1997,
p. 51). The nourishment of relationships, both with God and with our fellow
man, is a proven health principle.
Take personal responsibility for your health.
people share one of life's greatest blessings. Those who have enjoyed good
health and lost it know, through painful personal experience, that they are
missing out on one of life's greatest treasures. However, those who have
experienced a decline in health can often regain a significant measure of their
well-being by applying the principles outlined in this chapter. Those who still
have good health can do a lot to preserve it by living right.
maximize our potential to live long and well requires that we make a habit of
living by proven health principles. This is the will of God: "Dear friend,
I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you"
(3 John 2, NIV).