Here we are defining a family as a group of people bound together economically and emotionally. Compelling research concludes, "Families have a powerful influence on health, equal to traditional medical risk factors.” The World Health Organization’s definition of health is, “a state of physical and mental well-being, not simply the absence of disease.”
Within the household of a family, the first influence is the physical environment. People living under one roof share the same toxic environments of household chemicals and possibly smoking and asbestos. There is also the increase of transmitting airborne disease. Of course there are genetic influences as well. Our previous newsletter discussed ways to create a healthy living environment in the home.
Another way our family strongly influences our health is by behavior, which includes culture and society, diet and nutrition, exercise, and possibly substance abuse. Many of our traditional ways of eating, especially for holidays and celebrations, are based in our heritage and add to the propensity of family members to develop diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease and other “possible genetic” conditions. Parents shape their children’s eating habits depending on their views which are shaped by society and other family members, and can indirectly affect the nutrition the child receives.
As defined above, health is also emotional. The way a family reacts to daily situations can affect physical health outcomes within the family unit. One example is a family member with mental illness may need care that adds stress and anxiety to other family members. Of course there are many other situations that add stress to the family unit. Some conditions effected by stress and anxiety within the family unit can include psoriasis, eczema, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Risky health behaviors tend to cluster within families because they share similar diets, environments, and habits, but the family can also be the positive emotional and physical support that leads to lowering family health issues.
Learn to develop strategies that reduce behaviors which could increase health risk, foster self-protective action against disease, and effective ways of coping with illness. By making some positive changes within the family unit by encouraging responsible and temperate behavior, and being a cushion against the impersonal, and sometimes threatening actions of society, you’ll quickly see positive changes in your family’s life.
Enjoy the good feelings and abundance!