This one-minute habit could prevent dementia

How do you keep sharp?

Some folks like to do crossword puzzles and Sudoku. Some swear the secret is in watching Jeopardy! and shouting out the questions. Others take brain-boosting supplements such as B vitamins and fish oil.

And some do all of the above and THEN some.

But let me give you one more trick -- a quick and easy step to take in addition to anything else you're doing.

It's something you'd never expect.

Floss!

New research finds that dementia protection starts in your mouth. The cleaner your gums... the sharper your mind. And the worse those gums get with disease and inflammation, the higher the risk of your gray matter going dark.

The longer you let your gums go, the bigger the risk grows.

Inflammation in your gums over 10 years or more will not only boost your odds of cognitive struggles, it'll even increase your risk of Alzheimer's disease by 70 percent.

I know how unlikely that seems.

What could your gums possibly have in common with your brain?

Believe it or not, they have more in common than most folks think.

First, there's inflammation. When your gums are so puffy they look like they went 10 rounds -- and lost -- then you've got it. And, odds are, that inflammation isn't just in your gums.

You could have inflammation throughout your body, which is why gum disease has been linked to more than just dementia risk. It can also lead to heart attack, stroke, and more.

And second, there are the nasty bacteria that can set up shop in your mouth and eat away at your gums.

They're bad enough right there in your mouth. But they don't always stay there.

They can use bleeding gums to slip inside your bloodstream and travel around your body, where they've been linked to heart problems and cancer -- including cancers of the colon, pancreas, and breast.

Those germs can even travel to other organs, where they may play a role in chronic health problems such as kidney disease.

The good news is that you can turn this around with little cost and minimal effort.

Just take better care of your mouth.

You know the drill: Brush after meals, ideally with a fluoride-free toothpaste, and don't forget to floss.

It only adds about a minute to your routine, yet too many people skip it -- and, as the new study shows, they could pay the price.