Being young means your body can take just about anything you do to it, right? You might be surprised at which of the stupid things you do to it takes a big toll and what’s not as bad as you thought. Discover three things you can’t get away with for long—and two things you can.
3 Things You Can’t Get Away With
1. Routinely drinking to oblivion
Your brain is still pretty young—it’s not fully developed until your mid- to late 20s. Right now there are more connections between neurons. This helps you learn quickly, but it also means there’s more real estate for alcohol to bind to, explains Frances E. Jensen, M.D., author of The Teenage Brain. This makes the effects of booze more profound and allows addictions to form in a stronger, more permanent way than they do later. Plus, binge drinking now is linked to reduced areas of the brain involved in memory, language, attention, and more—and they stay smaller for life.
2. A hardcore weed habit
When you’re young, the trillions of connections in your brain become wrapped in an “insulation” called myelin—a construction project that starts in the back of your brain at birth and, over time, moves forward, speeding up connections along the way. The crucial frontal lobe, which controls decision making, is the last to wrap up. Chronic cannabis use in your 20s can mess up the process. The result: a higher propensity for risk taking throughout life, Dr. Jensen says.
3. Avoiding the dentist
The 20s are the worst decade for oral health in males,” says Mark S. Wolff, D.D.S., Ph.D. Skipping these appointments now can lead to tons of time (and money) in the dentist’s office later. Tooth decay and gum damage are the real deal: They can be permanent. And gum disease has been linked to other body-wide problems, including heart disease. But it’s also largely preventable. Make one appointment. If you get cleaned up and checked for cavities, you might be okay limiting your checkups to every couple years, Dr. Wolff says.
2 Things You Can Get Away With
1. A crazy irregular sleep schedule
“We tend to get more deep sleep when we’re younger,” says Men’s Health sleep advisor W. Christopher Winter, M.D. In other words, the sleep you do get likely counterbalances bingeing on Netflix into the wee hours or staying up till sunrise, he says. Not every night, though. If your schedule is completely off, the best workaround is to aim for at least 49 hours of sleep over the week. But that’s only for now; as you get older, you lose your reserve and deep sleep is harder to come by, so a crazy schedule will leave you ragged, hungry, and just feeling lousy. If only you could bank sleep now for later.
2. Those two (three?) times you did ecstasy
“We don’t have evidence of long-term so-called brain damage from short-term or intermittent use of these substances,” says Wilson Compton, M.D., deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “I wouldn’t expect someone who had no noticeable complications at the time to have problems 10 or 20 years later.” Long-term use is different. Ecstasy acts on two still–developing brain regions, those for judgment and for memory formation, and long-term, chronic use has been linked to negative changes in both.
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