Italy was recently rated the second healthiest country in the world (il secondo paese più sano del mondo ), after first-place Singapore. Bloomberg, the global financial giant, based its ratings on factors such as mortality rates (il tasso di mortalità), percentage of population with health care (la percentuale di popolazione con l'assistenza sanitaria), satisfaction with health care (il livello di soddisfazione per l’ assistenza sanitaria) and life expectancy (l'aspettativa di vita).
This report brought together the two major themes of my professional life. Through most of my career as a journalist and author, I've written about health (la salute). In what I think of as my day job (il mio vero lavoro), I've authored 26 editions of the best-selling college health textbook, An Invitation to Health. The latest (above) was just published, and I am already working on the next one.
What are the secrets of Italians' good health? They include:
*The Mediterranean diet. La dieta mediterranea emphasizes healthy foods such as fish (pesce), fresh vegetables (verdure fresche), fruit (frutta) and olive oil (olio d'oliva).
*Moderate alcohol use. Italians mainly drink alcoholic beverages (bevande alcoliche) with meals. Most popular is red wine (vino rosso), which has many proven health benefits (benefici per la salute).
*More active lifestyles. Exercise (l'esercizio) is built into the daily routine (routine quotidiana). Many Italians walk to work, shops and schools and take an evening stroll (passeggiata).
*Family ties. Most Italians eat dinners together at the same time (insieme allo stesso orario). This in itself may instill a sense of well-being and comfort (una sensazione di benessere e di comfort).
La salute prima di tutto! ( Health is first of all!) Italians say. That’s even true in their language. When someone sneezes, they call out “Salute!” What more could you wish someone than to be in buona or ottima salute (good or excellent health) or pieno di salute (full of health)?
In any language, when you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything. (Quando c’è la salute, c’è tutto.) Nothing is more valuable than a healthy mind in a healthy body (mente sana in corpo sano, from the Latin mens sana in corpore sano). But while English speakers strive to be healthy as a horse, Italians aim to be healthy as a fish (sano come un pesce).
Being in bad shape (essere in cattiva forma) inspires a host of colorful idioms. If you have un brutta cera (literally a bad wax), you may stare poco bene (be just a little well) or non sentirsi molto in forma (not feel in very good shape). Those who ammalarsi gravemente (are gravely ill) may avere un piede nella fossa (have one foot in the grave), essere spacciato (be done for), essere sul letto di morte (be on one’s deathbed) or essere tra la vita e la morte (be between life and death).
If you find yourself in such dire straits, you must guardare la morte in faccia (look death in the face) and reggere l’anima coi denti (hold on to your soul with your teeth). With luck and good care, you soon will rimettersi in salute (put yourself back into health).
Words and Expressions
Mantenersi in buona salute -- To remain in good health
Guarisci presto! -– Get well soon!
Prevenire è meglio che curare -- Prevention is better than cure
Una mela al giorno leva il medico di torno -- An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Siamo quello che mangiamo –- We are what we eat
Dianne Hales is the author of MONA LISA: A Life Discovered and LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.