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Erase Your Health Mistakes

It's not too late to stop; your body may be more resilient than you think.

| February 17th, 2012
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Erase Your Health Mistakes

Worried about the smoke, booze, sun worshipping or junk-food binging in your past? Good news: New science shows that much of the harm you may have done to your body can be reversed. Here's how to wipe the slate clean.

Oops. You snuck cigarettes at parties for years.

It's never too late to ditch the sticks. Your body starts to bounce back a mere 20 minutes after your last puff: Carbon monoxide starts clearing from your system, and your blood vessels begin to repair themselves. You can ward off further damage with some salad: Eat 12 servings of leafy greens per month, and their phytochemicals could protect you against lung tumors and cancer, a study on smokers in Cancer Research indicates.

Because you're more vulnerable to future lung damage than never-smokers are, prevent it by getting flu shots (the fewer infections you get, the better), avoiding secondhand smoke and rolling up windows if you're behind a stinky truck (no joke), says Norman H. Edelman, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Lung Association.

MORE FROM SELF: In-Season Greens

OMG. You partied too hard in college.

Still worried about frat-fiesta fallout? If you're healthy these days, don't fret about past overimbibing, says Tram Tran, M.D., medical director of liver transplantation at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. You may have caused inflammation, but that sounds scarier than it probably is: If you're usually moderate—defined as having one drink or fewer per day—your liver will naturally repair itself within a few months or at most a couple of years, Dr. Tran says. (If you have a family history of liver disease, however, it's wise to have a hepatologist screen for abnormalities.)

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