When the conversation is about health and how to improve it, we can inadvertently cheapen the concept of health if we don’t expect that one of the outcomes will also be longevity. But if our strategy for health—indeed our entire concept of it—consists mainly of engaging with the medical community, we have just turned our backs on the purest form of health there is, along with the most powerful path to quality longevity.
Barring some very specific and relatively rare forms of injury or congenital defect, those qualities never require the engagement of the medical community to achieve. And that engagement can actually lead to an entirely different outcome. Interestingly, the outcome of the medical-first strategy may still involve some degree of longevity, but the quality of that experience will be significantly lower than it might have been.
As I’ve written in earlier articles, the term health should only apply to strategies designed to maintain exceptional levels of physical well-being, and only those strategies that can be successfully achieved in the absence of any outside intervention. These strategies are well-known to most of us, whether or not we actually do them; things like nutrition, activity, environment, hydration, dynamic relationships, stress management, etc. These strategies are often called “preventative”—which indeed they are, but it is far more powerful for you to think of them as the very essence of health itself, and the essence of any attendant longevity.
The practical point of all of this is that we have a choice to make; a choice made necessary by two forms of a thing called “health”. When you hear me use the word, I am always referring only to the form that produces the most powerful results possible for a human to achieve. Sadly, that’s not the only form of health being discussed widely today. There is also a lower form of it that is prevalent in modern conversation; the type also referred to in marketing as “health care”. Most of us will want to become far more clear on the distinction between the two before we can confidently speak of them as separate strategies. In recognition of that, I’m going to use the terms “Type A” and “Type B” to distinguish between these two distinct types of health/longevity. The goal is that only the most constructive outcomes will ultimately be the sole concept described by the word “health”.
Keep in mind throughout this article that Type B comes in many forms; not just the medical-first strategy. It is also being used as a metaphor for any external provider of health-related products or services, like supplements, “magic” elixirs, health/fitness tracking devices, or any other products or providers that promise an outcome of health or longevity. This is not to say that everything in this category is bad and should be avoided, rather only to say that none of them are EVER a substitute for everything you can do for yourself, whether or not it is uncomfortable or inconvenient.
The truth is that the knowledge necessary to create Type A health/longevity is intrinsic at its most basic level, and even an advanced form of it requires only minimal learning, and never anything called “science”. Yet modern life is mostly a place where we go about our daily business paying little, if any, attention to the most powerful catalysts for health available to us, and instead wait for the inevitable degenerative issues to appear. When our daily activities—minimal even as they are—begin to be affected, the prevailing strategy is to engage the medical community for a remedy. So we make an appointment and let a doctor prescribe a pharmaceutical to treat our symptoms, or pass you off to a specialist for further consultation. As bad as the first option is, it’s actually better than the second. What is lost in this plan is that your doctor is not addressing your health, just your symptoms. While your symptoms may improve, your overall quality of life will not. Yet it is still called “health”.
This is not the health that most are hoping for, but it is the type that we have been conditioned to expect. It’s not the fault of medicine, except for the fact that they’re happy to take your money (more often, your insurance company’s money) for that which medicine was not designed. Medicine was designed to provide corrective strategies (a.k.a., treatment) for existing acute conditions caused by accident, environmental toxins, or congenital defects; all of these being corrective in nature. Medicine was never intended to provide health; all of which is preventative in nature. In the history of humans as a species, it has always been assumed that everything necessary to create actual health was being attended to by a combination of awareness and personal initiative, or the act of survival in the natural world; in other words, by each of us on an individual basis. That’s the only way it can happen.
So, the outcome that you were really hoping for, inconvenient though it may be to learn, requires active and consistent involvement from the individual (that’s you), and there is no other path. All that doctors can ever do for the goal of health is to keep your vital organs functioning at some base level referred to in doctor-speak as “normal”, but that’s hardly a description of great health. That remarkably low bar is what so many of us have come to accept as a definition of health. That is what is referred to in this article as “Type B”.
While it is hard enough to get our heads around this new distinction for health, it is perhaps even a bit more difficult to apply it to longevity. The longevity of the kind that we all picture in our minds—living an active and involved life well beyond the “normal” expiration date for that reality—is largely a byproduct of physical health. As I’ve just described, physical health that will produce that kind of longevity requires a willingness to make some inconvenient choices that typically have not been budgeted for in terms of time, money, and effort, in the structure of our modern lives. That’s a short-sighted budget.
So, the desire to remain on the planet for an exceptional length of time will require that both the mental and the physical realms receive our direct and consistent attention, and never exclusive of each other. This is the essence of a holistic approach. I trust that, once you maximized your desire for, and ability to create, a positive impact on the world, you’ll want to stick around for a while and bless us all with your gifts for as long as possible. We want that too.
“Type A” longevity is only available, and an indicator of health, in the absence of medicine. In the presence of medicine—”Type B” longevity, the length of your life is only an indicator of the ability of science to prop up your failing body; a failing that is mostly often due to simple neglect. Medicine was never designed to create Type A longevity only because longevity is something that only individuals can do for themselves, and far better. Type A longevity is a matter of minute-by-minute lifestyle choices, and there is no external provider of “health” that is present for all of the dozens and dozens of lifestyle choices made every day. You are the only one present for all of them, not mention responsible for them. Only you.
When most people say they don’t know how to improve their health and longevity, what they’re really saying is that they don’t know how to improve their health and longevity without changing their lifestyle. There is a much deeper issue here involving a strong desire to never experience any discomfort or inconvenience; an attitude that is supported everywhere in modern life, but nowhere more than advertising. This is the attitude toward health and longevity that causes people to seek out “experts” to instruct or inform them, like trainers, nutritionists, doctors, etc.
There is, in reality, no need for any of this outside intervention to create exceptional levels of both health and longevity, and you knew how to do it when you were 10. But that was before you decided that you “deserved” to never be uncomfortable or inconvenienced for even a moment. Once you decided that, it became necessary for you to hire someone or buy something to keep you healthy and to live a long life without interfering with your new edict. When we were 10, we only cared about outcomes, not the process for achieving them.
Show me someone who is willing to put in the effort and time, and to modify their lifestyle whenever and wherever it serves the goal of an exceptional life, and I’ll show you someone who never or rarely finds it necessary to pay any of these “experts” for their products or services.
So for many the goal is NOT being healthier or living longer; the goal is achieving as much of those qualities as possible without any inconvenient changes in lifestyle. The difference between those 2 is the difference that determines whether someone will do what’s necessary to extend and improve their quality of life and reap superior results (Type A), and those that are only willing to “farm it out” to the medical community; even though the results are inferior (Type B). The latter will also often claim to be a victim of age or other entirely preventable conditions.
So, which experience do you want to achieve? The choice is yours. I’m not here to preach about what kind of life you “should” live. I’m only here to pull back the curtain on how our internal interpretations of some very important concepts have become corrupted by modern life and all of its enticing messages. When we don’t understand that, we will naturally sink to the simplest, most comfortable, most convenient strategy because it is referred to by the same name, and regardless of the fact that it results in just a tiny fraction of the benefits; which is something we won’t discover until it is often too late. It is only when we clearly understand that not all health is the same health in spite of the name, nor is all longevity the same longevity in spite of being called the same thing, are we really free to choose.
I’m working for the day when the words “health” and “longevity” will actually mean something very specific, and will each represent the highest quality that is possible for each of us. It can be that for you starting right now, and it is only when that becomes the practice for each of us as individuals that it will be the commonly accepted practice by us all. Never again will there be a need to refer to Type A or B.
Meanwhile, in doing that for yourself you are then free to choose the greatest possible outcome, and have certainty knowing that is exactly what you’re doing. By continuing to allow watered-down strategies to be called by the same name as the most constructive ones, we lose the option to choose between them, and we become victims of whatever cheap alternative someone is able to pass off as the real thing with a fancy marketing message or a claim of scientific validation.
Realize also that cheap alternative strategies will be made to sound compelling, but always by virtue of convincing you that you can avoid the hard work of creating the best possible quality and length of your life. If you are not aware that there is no shortcut, that will sound very good indeed. Once you are aware that what is being offered to you can be a cheap alternative, and aware of how to tell the difference, you are suddenly back in control of your own future; a future that can be better than you imagined.