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What does your smile say about your health?

ARA Content | 5/9/2012, 5 p.m.

What's the secret to living a longer, healthier life? The answer is--there is no secret. Rather, a healthy life depends on taking several simple steps to improve health-impacting habits, from eating well and maintaining a positive attitude to flossing daily.

Making the change to a healthy lifestyle does not have to be difficult. Simple changes such as taking a daily vitamin, playing board games or practicing healthy oral health habits can help add years to your life. Here are a few tips to help you live a longer, healthier life.

* Maintain a healthy weight by choosing an effective diet you can live with. Consume plenty of antioxidants, like vitamin E, to help slow diseases associated with aging and keep free radical damage at bay. Avoid high fat diets, smoking, excessive drinking and lack of exercise. All reduce your chances of achieving a healthy, older age and increase the likelihood of a longer period of poor health in a shorter life.

* Flossing, while an important part of your daily routine, is often overlooked. Make it easier by choosing a floss that helps eliminate any difficulty or discomfort.

"Practicing a healthy oral care routine is an important step in helping to maintain a longer, healthier life," says Leslie J. Winston, DDS, Ph.D., a dentist and Director of Scientific Relations with Crest. "Flossing daily helps protect against gingivitis by removing plaque and food particles, keeping your teeth and gums healthy, while giving you a beautiful smile."

* Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. You don't have to be a fanatic about exercise, but it's important to keep your muscles active. Not exercising can take five years off your life expectancy.

* Give your brain a workout. Social networks and brain-building games can help keep your brain active, which can add years to your life expectancy. Crossword puzzles, bridge, jigsaw puzzles, reading and learning foreign languages can all help keep your brain sharp.

* Manage stress. Stress can cause a hormonal imbalance that negatively affects important organs and impairs everyday functioning. Practice stress-reduction activities like meditation or exercise. And keep a positive attitude about aging--it can add a couple of years to your life.