Dementia. Alzheimer’s. Senility. These are diseases which rob a person’s memory and put a terrible burden on family members. Researchers still do not have definitive answers on the causes of these conditions, but we can take steps to, if not prevent, at least postpone their arrival by following what the ancient Romans called “mens sana in corpore sana.” According to Kessler Rehabilitation Center physical therapists Maria Dubiel and Christina Vanwyk, mind and body are so interconnected that taking care of one supports the health of the other.
Dubiel and Vanwyk, who work in the South Plainfield branch of Kessler, spoke at the Suburban Woman’s Club February 6th meeting to discuss how to keep mentally alert, no matter what one’s age. They encouraged members to follow three basic rules: maintain a healthy diet, keep moving and get involved. Vanwyk spoke about the Mediterranean diet which has proven to be one of the best to keep body and mind fit. It involves eating more fish, less red meat; more vegetables, less processed foods; more fruit and much less sugar.
The Kessler physical therapists emphasized movement rather than basic exercise to keep both the body and mind nimble. Dancing, walking, sports, anything that is fun to do and takes us away from the habit of sitting and watching television for hours on end. They also suggested getting involved within one’s community, joining a book club, meeting new people and doing something challenging for the mind. Dubiel said that one needs to have a challenge to stir one’s mind so that the brain creates new pathways and connections to renew itself. The technical term for this is neuroplasticity.
The 20 members and one guest at the meeting enjoyed this presentation along with some light refreshments which followed the basic Mediterranean diet – refreshments which provided a variety of protein, carbs and fruit, all presciently put together by April Bengivenga, Joyce Dieterle, and April Wasnick.
One of the suggestions made by the Kessler presenters was to be involved with community activities. The combination of camaraderie and mental challenges are exactly what is needed to keep our minds young. The business meeting, called to order by President Jane Rundella, is such an example.
Education Chair Debbie Boyle and several other members hosted the Annual Spelling Bee on February 5th in conjunction with our town’s Cultural Arts Commission. Public Issues Chair Joanne Stogoski updated members on events and activities that support veterans, women’s issues and children. Cathy Wells, as Club Historian, reminded members of the sacrifices that the Suffragists made in order to secure voting rights for women. And Kathy Wozniak, who is Legislation Chair, reported that the General Federation of Women’s Clubs encourages members to write to Senator McConnell pressing him to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act which has already been approved by the House of Representatives.