Will the things we do when we’re young come back to haunt us in the future? Here are some common worries...

I slept around

Frequent sex, whether with one partner or many,many, doesn’t damage your body (assuming you’re not doing anything too “out there”). But you do put yourself at risk of sexually transmitted diseases. And the more partners a woman has, the higher the chance of getting HPV (human papillomavirus), which could lead to cervical cancer. Keep having smears until 65—after that, the risk is lower.

I inhaled 

The bad news about marijuana smoke is that it contains 50 to 70 per cent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke. Meanwhile, cigarettes kill one out of every two people who smoke them regularly. The good news? Within a year of quitting your risk of a smoking-related heart attack is halved, and within ten years your risk of dying from lung cancer halves. 

 

I lived in a polluted area

Children’s lungs are more prone to damage from air pollution than an adult’s. One study shows that breathing in polluted air for several years can raise your lung-cancer risk by 25 per cent and be as harmful as passive smoking. But by leading a healthier lifestyle now, you can definitely help ward off disease.

I spent too much time in the sun 

Nearly 80 per cent of lifetime sun damage occurs before the age of 18. The more sun exposure you had, the more likely you are to have wrinkles, freckles and other skin discolourations later in life. Even worse is your heightened risk of skin cancer. Plus, your chances of getting melanoma go up by 75 per cent if you used tanning beds before you were 35. You can’t repair that damage, but if you’re more careful from now on about covering up outdoors and using sunscreen, you’ll cut your odds of skin cancer.

 I got drunk a lot 

Even if your youthful drinking days are behind you, alcohol’s effect on your health could linger on. In one study, former heavy drinkers reported more depression, heart problems, chronic bronchitis and diabetes after the age of 40 than current social drinkers. But there’s no need to give up hope—healthy living helps fix the damage. In one study, former heavy drinkers saw their risk of cancer of the oesophagus drop to normal over a decade.

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