Seniors learn about maintaining optimal health

By Judy Henderson - ReminderNews
Suffield - posted Mon., Nov. 7, 2011
Dr. Maria Renna (left) and Lindsay Baghramyan, from Johnson Memorial Medical Center. Photo by Judy Henderson.
Dr. Maria Renna (left) and Lindsay Baghramyan, from Johnson Memorial Medical Center. Photo by Judy Henderson.

The key message of Dr. Maria Renna’s presentation at the Suffield Senior Center on Oct. 20 was also a very empowering one. Indeed, throughout Renna’s 45-minute program, which was entitled “Aging Successfully” and sponsored by Johnson Memorial Medical Center, one theme prevailed: While genes do play a part in lifelong wellness, many age-related conditions can be controlled, minimized and sometimes dodged altogether if we practice healthy living.

Renna, who is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, began by explaining that “chronological age is not always similar to physiological age.” As a result, age alone is not always responsible for infirmity.

According to the doctor, infirmity usually derives from chronic illness, which, in turn, derives from very specific risk factors, including smoking, poor diet and nutrition, physical inactivity, falls, alcohol and substance abuse, inadequate screening for diseases such as cancer, failing to get proper immunizations, stress and even social isolation - all of which can be avoided.

Renna also talked about the difference between everyday memory lapses involving misplaced keys and forgotten names and real dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. “Real dementia,” she noted, “involves losing the ability to reason to the extent that it interferes with day-to-day functioning.” She also emphasized that taking care of one’s heart benefits one’s brain, making dementia less of a threat regardless of family history.        

In closing, Renna introduced the audience to Jeanne Louise Calment of Arles, France, who died in 1997 at the age of 122 after living longer than any other human being in recorded history. With that, a hand went up, and Alice Czyz of Suffield shared something about Madame Calment that even Renna didn’t know.

It seems that when she was 90, Calment sold her apartment to a lawyer who agreed to give her 2,500 francs per month and full use of her home until her death. Ironically, he died long before she did - and his family, still sending Calment her 2,500 francs per month as agreed, ended up paying twice the actual value of the apartment. “Apparently, motivation matters, too” said Czyz, chuckling.

So does a sense of humor.

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