- Floss and brush twice every day. The link between gum disease and heart disease has been well established, and researchers now think they've pinpointed the possible culprit: The very same bacteria that cause inflammation and swelling in the gums appear to be a source of inflammation and thickening of the arteries. Previous studies have shown that those who get their gum disease treated wind up with lower levels of inflammation, though it's still too early, Desvarieux says, to firmly conclude that gum disease causes clogged arteries. "Still," he adds, "it's hard to be against good oral hygiene."
- Consider probiotics. UCLA School of Medicine researchers made headlines last summer when they reported that intestinal inflammation in mice could cause DNA damage in white blood cells elsewhere in the body, raising the likelihood of cancer. "We demonstrated a whole-body response to site-specific inflammation, which means it's important to prevent that inflammation," says study coauthor Robert Schiestl. He says the beneficial bacteria found in yogurt and probiotic supplements can help keep in check the "bad" bacteria that reside in your gut and generate an inflammatory response. Try a daily serving or two of yogurt and other dairy products containing probiotics—look for L. casei, L. acidophilus, L. plantarum, B. bifidum. You can also try the supplement Align; studies suggest its B. infantis bacteria are anti-inflammatory and help normalize digestive function. And if you're not a dairy fan, a pill may be preferable.
[Slide show: 6 ways to protect yourself against Alzheimer's disease. And see foods that reduce inflammation: what to eat, what to avoid.]