Staying Healthy

Do past lifestyle habits affect future health?

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By , Chief Medical Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

photo of a man holding a glass of liquor and looking at it skeptically

Q. I worry how much permanent damage my prior smoking and heavy drinking did to my body. I quit both five years ago. Will my past behavior affect how I age?

A. It's never too late to make healthier lifestyle choices. Some of the health risks of using tobacco and overusing alcohol begin to drop within days after you stop using them. To what degree does the amount and number of years of tobacco and alcohol use affect how long you live or the quality of your life is difficult to predict. It also depends on genetics, which we continue to explore.

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About the Author

photo of Howard E. LeWine, MD

Howard E. LeWine, MD, Chief Medical Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Dr. Howard LeWine is a practicing internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Chief Medical Editor at Harvard Health Publishing, and editor in chief of Harvard Men’s Health Watch. See Full Bio
View all posts by Howard E. LeWine, MD

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