Even if your drinking days are far behind you alcohol’s effects on your health could linger for decades. In one study of 3,803 women and men, former drinkers reported more depression, heart problems, chronic bronchitis and diabetes after age 40 than did current social drinkers. They also felt less energetic and said their health problems interfered more often with social activities.
Heavy drinking in your twenties can raise your heart disease risk by 36 percent later in life – perhaps due to an enlarged heart muscle, high blood pressure, or to a lifestyle (then and now) that doesn’t include much exercise or enough healthy food. If you ever binge-drank, such as downing an incredible 25 drinks in a day – even just once – researchers say your later odds for heart disease could be seven times higher than normal.
Bingeing can also increase a man’s later risk for prostate cancer by 64 percent – especially in men who have type 2 diabetes. In women a history of heavy drinking may increase breast cancer risk, especially if the drinking happened in midlife. Alcohol seems to alter hormone levels that may fuel the growth of some type of breast cancers. Irritation caused by drinking may also increase your odds for cancers of the head and neck for about 10 years after you stop.
There is plenty you can do to help your body repair alcohol’s damage and to offset added risks. Experts are just beginning to look at how much of drinking’s physical and mental effects can be reversed. Proof that the body can heal: In one study of nearly 1,000 people former drinkers’ risk for cancer of the esophagus dropped to normal after a decade.
Choose to replace your overindulgent past with a healthy present and future and the benefits are widespread. You’ll protect yourself from heart disease and several forms of cancer. You’ll feel more energized and upbeat and you’ll give your self-esteem a huge boost as well, knowing that you’ve greatly improved the person you are.
Here are some things you can do to speed up the repair process:
So remember it is never too late to stop drinking and start repairing your body for a long and healthy life yet to come.
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