While it would be easy to conclude that lifestyle is more likely than medicine to be the key to good health, the question itself is, on closer examination, untenable. The benefits of leading a ‘healthy’ lifestyle and using medication at appropriate times are impossible to doubt but any claim on one factor being ‘the key to good health’ is bound to be fraught with issues.
There is certainly some truth to the adage that lifestyle is the passport to good health. Considering the soaring number of fitness centres in many city-centres and the burgeoning health-food craze, many do believe eating the proverbial ‘apple’ does help ‘keep the doctor away’. An endless number of studies have also shown that living and eating well significantly reduces the need for pharmaceutical remedies in the first place.
Yet, this belief in lifestyle as the key to good health is itself highly problematic. In an age of incalculable and often contradictory advice on dietary choices and exercise methods, the modern man is likely to be confused about the benefits of red wine, red meat, eight glasses of water a day, daily yoga routines and even long-distance running. Who knows what a ‘healthy lifestyle’ really is?
Consequently, the view that lifestyle as the principal element of good health would be simplistic at best. It should be noted that proponents of frequent exercise and healthy eating tend to ignore the increasing use of vitamins and supplements, which constitute ‘medicine’, as part of how modern society defines a ‘healthy lifestyle’.
In this light, this essay proposes that both lifestyle and medicine play a pivotal role, but are ill-suited (pun!) to be deemed ‘the key’ to good health. The genetic, geographic and socio-economic ‘lottery’ of life – who our parents are and the body, environment and wealth we are born into – play an equally important, if not greater role in determining our health.
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