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  1. Oral bacteria one of the causes of dementia

    Two ways to fight dementia

    The best way to beat dementia is to make sure you never get the disease in the first place -- and new studies reveal two simple actions you can take right now to help slash your risk and avoid the causes of dementia.

    First, take care of your mouth.

    Bleeding gums are an invitation for oral bacteria to enter the body, where they can cause all kinds of problems -- and one of the new studies finds these germs may even play a role in some cases of and causes of dementia.

    The oral bacteria responsible for gum disease were found in the brains of four out of 10 Alzheimer's patients tested -- versus none of the brains of the 10 healthy patients tested.

    It's a sign these germs not only can get into your bloodstream, but they can also cross the blood-brain barrier. And once inside your head, they can do to your brain what they've done to your gums.

    Since these same germs have been implicated in heart disease, heart attack, stroke and more, you want to keep them out of your mouth and away from your bloodstream -- so remember mom's advice and be sure to brush and floss after meals.

    And that's not the only change you can make to help avoid the causes of dementia. If you've let your belly go over the years, it's time to tighten the belt and bring it back down to size -- because a second new study confirms the link between obesity and dementia.

    The key is a protein called PPARalpha, used by the liver to metabolize fat. When you get too fat, levels of this protein fall -- and not just in the liver. You can also fall short in the brain, where the same protein is used by the hippocampus for memory and learning.

    Studies on mice show that injecting PPARalpha into the brain can restore memory, and the researchers want to see if this works in humans as well -- but injecting anything into the brain sounds like a bad idea to me, especially when there's a much simpler solution: Lose some weight.

    Finally, remember that not all dementias are really dementia - they're cases of mistaken identity. And in many cases, they can be treated and even reversed.

    Read this free report from my House Calls archives to learn more.

  2. Brush away pneumonia risk

    Here's the easiest way yet to avoid pneumonia: brush your teeth.

    Simple enough, I know, but too many people skip out on oral hygiene -- and that's especially true when they're sick.

    Big mistake -- because that's exactly when you don't want to let your guard down: A small study of 37 patients on ventilators found that pneumonia often begins with a dramatic shift in oral bacteria.

    And that's a shift that can be prevented with a toothbrush.

    The study didn't look at how this change in oral bacteria leads to the misery of pneumonia, but other studies have already mapped out the route: Nasty little critters build up in the mouth... and then drip right into your lungs, where they can wreck havoc.

    Some studies have even shown that people with deep pockets in their gums are more likely to die of pneumonia -- and that's another sign of the role these bacteria play, since they just love to hide in those pockets.

    In fact, gum pockets are about as cozy a home as a germ could ask for: warm, wet and sheltered.

    The Yale University researchers behind the new study say you can minimize your own risk by brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste -- and I'd say they got that half right.

    Brush twice a day -- but skip the fluoride.

    Despite what you've heard, fluoride isn't all that great for your teeth. And along with not doing much to prevent cavities, this toxic substance can actually damage your brain and weaken your bones.

    Try an all-natural fluoride-free toothpaste instead -- and don't forget to floss, because there's a lot more than gum disease and pneumonia on the line here.

    Just last month, I told you how gum infections can raise your risk of heart attack and stroke. Poor periodontal health has also been linked to everything from obesity to dementia to pre-term births and underweight babies.

    Along with brushing and flossing, there's another simple way to keep your mouth clean and protect your heart at the same time: give up sugar.

    Sugar serves as fuel for the bacteria that can damage your teeth and boost your risk of disease. Take away their fuel, and they die.

    One more note here: If you do get sick, throw away your toothbrush once you recover. The same bacteria that caused your illness can hide in your toothbrush -- getting a free ride back into your body, twice each day.

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