Doing This in the Bathroom Slashes Your Alzheimer's Risk

This simple, everyday habit protects your brain health.

A neurodegenerative condition that wreaks havoc on memory and cognition, Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia. Right now, 6.5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's, and this number is expected to rise significantly in coming years. While there is no one thing you can do to guarantee a clean bill of brain health, experts say that adhering to a few simple, everyday health habits can help slash your risk. Read on to learn one way to lower your Alzhiemer's risk when you're in the bathroom, and why doing so comes with a whole host of other health benefits.

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Many everyday interventions can help lower your Alzheimer's risk.

white woman and black woman dancing together at an exercise class

While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer's, several interventions can help lower your risk of developing it. According to the Alzheimer's Society, these include maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, minimizing alcohol intake, and staying socially engaged.

Additionally, it's important to treat any underlying health conditions that may increase your risk of Alzheimer's disease. "The risk of developing Alzheimer's or vascular dementia appears to be increased by many conditions that damage the heart and blood vessels," the Alzheimer's Association explains. "These include heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol."

Additionally, there's one other health condition that often goes overlooked—and which doctors say is linked to higher rates of Alzheimer's and related forms of dementia.

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Doing this slashes your risk of Alzheimer's and related forms of dementia.

family brushing their teeth

Maintaining good oral health by brushing your teeth, flossing, and rinsing can do more than prevent cavities and bad breath: it can also lower your Alzheimer's risk, experts say. "Gum disease results from infection of the oral tissues holding teeth in place. Bleeding gums, loose teeth, and even tooth loss are the main effects of this disease," explains the National Institute on Aging. "Bacteria and the inflammatory molecules they make can travel from infections in the mouth through the bloodstream to the brain."

Once this bacteria enters the brain, it releases "enzymes called gingipains that can destroy nerve cells, which in turn can lead to memory loss and eventually Alzheimer's," says Harvard Health Publishing.

Poor oral health is also linked with these other health conditions.

Man getting his teeth and gums checked out at the dentist

Alzheimer's is not the only health condition associated with poor oral health and hygiene. "One thing is clear," says Greg Grillo, DDS, of Express Dentist. "Oral wellness affects us from head to toe and through all stages of life."

In fact, research has established associations between poor oral health and chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, oral cancers, and birthing complications. You can help combat these conditions by brushing and flossing regularly, and by making regular appointments with your dentist.

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Flossing is particularly important to oral health.

woman flossing teeth

We tend to think of brushing our teeth as the most important component of oral health, but experts say flossing has an even greater impact. "Brushing only removes plaque from the front and back surfaces of your teeth," explains Northtowne Dental, an Albuquerque-based dental group. "Flossing, on the other hand, allows you to remove plaque from between your teeth and underneath the gums. These hard-to-reach spots are where the most destructive microbes live."

To make the most of your flossing, be sure to make it a once or twice daily habit. (Here's how to do it the right way.) American Dental Association experts recommend using 18 inches of floss and gently sliding it between each of your teeth, including your furthest back molars. Brush afterward to remove any food debris from the surface of your teeth, they add.

By taking better care of your oral health, you can do more than just improve your smile—you can also help ward off Alzheimer's and other serious health conditions.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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