Despite a plethora of promising new rheumatoid arthritis treatments and an emphasis on getting diagnosed earlier, people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) do not seem to be living any longer today than they were 40 years ago, according to a recent study from the Mayo Clinic.

Within 10 years of being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis between 1995 and 2000, 29 percent of people in the Mayo Clinic study had died. Only 24 percent of those diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis between 1955 and 1964 died within 10 years of diagnosis.

Why isn’t the situation getting better?

Researchers believe that for people with rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease is the reason for decreased life expectancy. But don’t let this grim-sounding news get you down. Longevity experts say that making some simple changes can help you reduce the increased risk of heart disease and add potentially lost years to close the “mortality gap.”

Incorporate the following health practices to add years to your life:

Floss your teeth every day: Researchers speculate that bacteria from the mouth may enter the bloodstream and contribute to inflammation and artery clogging. Keep your mouth clean, and you’ll not only feel more confident when talking with someone face to face, you’ll also protect your heart.

“Flossing regularly can make your real age as much as 6.4 years younger,” says Michael F. Roizen, MD, chief wellness officer of the Institute of Wellness at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and the author of several books, including RealAge – Are You as Young as You Can Be? (Collins, 1999) and, along with Mehmet C. Oz, MD, You: Staying Young (Free Press, 2007).

Different than your chronological age – determined by the calendar – your real age is the biological age of your body, which is affected by lifestyle, genetics and medical history. The good news is that your real age can be altered based on positive changes that improve your health.

Fish in the fountain of youth: “Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those in fish oil and fatty fish, decrease heart disease risks in several ways,” says Dr. Roizen. They reduce levels of dangerous blood fats called triglycerides, slightly decrease blood pressure and slow the growth rate of artery-clogging plaque. Get omega-3s by consuming 2 grams of fish oil per day or eating 14 ounces of fatty fish a week, such as herring, salmon, sardines and tuna.