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Game of cards may boost health

By Jessica Ferguson
Dec. 15, 2012 at 10 p.m.

In a room of five tables, each occupied by four people- two teams of two players- the competition is on. They're playing a game of bridge, and what looks like fun is much more than meets the eye.

Studies have shown that playing cards- bridge, specifically- helps reduce the risk of developing cognitive disorders and boosts immunity.

About 20 players, ages 35 and older, meet each Thursday at the Green Street Recreation Center in Longview for a game of bridge.

JoAnn Monts, a 75-year-old law enforcement retiree, sits at the table, focused on what trick to play next. She said she believes playing the game helps keep her young

"You have to use your mind," she said. "I'd have to be led around if I didn't play bridge."

The National Institute on Aging supports Monts' belief, saying strategic card games that exercise memory and concentration help seniors maintain intellectual power.

In a 2003 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 469 senior citizens were observed during a five-year span. Those who participated in mental activities were found to have a reduced risk of dementia.

"Retirees play to keep their mind sharp and to socialize. Both help with longevity," said Darbi Padbury, marketing project supervisor with the American Contract Bridge League. "The game is always presenting new challenges."

A study by biologist Marian Diamond in 2000 found the card game also can boost players' immunity.

Diamond said playing bridge stimulates the thymus gland, which produces white blood cells.

Monts said the game has made a difference in her life.

"I've only had the flu once, never had a headache, and don't get colds," she said.

Monts plays cards three times a week with groups and also plays on the computer multiple times each week.

The perks of playing Bridge aren't exclusive to seniors.

"Studies have shown that children who play bridge score better on standardized tests," she said.

In addition to the health benefits of playing bridge, players also enjoy an active social life.

"It's also about the fellowship. I enjoy seeing everybody," Monts said as she looked at her friend and fellow player Rosemary Brown.

"We like to chit chat," Brown said.

The duo said playing the game gives them the opportunity to make new friends and discuss what's going on in the world.

The game of bridge is growing in the U.S., according to Padbury. She said there are about 15 million players in North America, and even more throughout the world.

"You just need a brain and a deck of cards to play," Padbury said.

Monts and Brown meet at the Green Street Recreation Center each Thursday from 1 to 4 p.m. Games at the recreation center are for members only. Membership is $10 per year.

Games at the Longview Duplicate Bridge Club is open to the public. The club meets at 12:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday, and at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

To join a game of bridge, contact Green Street Recreation Center at (903) 237-1279 or the Longview Duplicate Bridge Club at (903) 968-2718.



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