How Hard Can You Play?

You can't pop multivitamins and sip green tea all day. Here's how to keep your four least-desirable vices from beating you.

Photographs by Craig Cutler. Styling by Ed Gabriels for Halley Resources.

You can't pop multivitamins and sip green tea all day. Here's how to keep your four least-desirable vices from beating you.


Worst-Case Scenario: The fat from all those potato chips goes to your liver and blood vessels, which puts you at risk for high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and strokes.

Time Frame: It takes about 10 years on a high-fat diet to really clog arteries but less time if you're overweight to begin with or if your family has a history of any of the above illnesses.

How to Play it Safe: "Limit your big splurges to every 10 days," says Dr. Domingo Pinero, a nutrition professor at NYU. If you can't pass up the Ben & Jerry's, scale back the portions and eat some lower-fat vegetarian meals.


Worst-Case Scenario: Cocaine constricts blood vessels, which can trigger heart arrhythmias, strokes, and cardiac arrest. Since blood pressure rises with age, so does the risk.

Time Frame: "It doesn't take years of heavy use to see side effects," says Dr. Robert Swift, of Brown's Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies. "You can use it once and get a panic attack, stroke, or heart attack." Try it a few more times and there's that issue of addiction, of course.

How to Play it Safe: If you decide to use, save it for special occasions, and never mix it with alcohol—the two together create a chemical called cocaethylene that's toxic to the heart.


Worst-Case Scenario: Alcohol in high doses can cause anesthesia and halt breathing. Other side effects include osteoporosis, pneumonia, pancreatitis, dementia, and liver damage.

Time Frame: "It's overdrinking—five or six drinks in

a day—that your body can't handle," Swift says. Do that a few times a week and you're asking for problems.

How to Play it Safe: Don't have more than two drinks a day, and stick to pale beverages—white wine, light beer—and purer alcohols like gin and vodka to avoid hangovers.


Worst-Case Scenario: You're probably envisioning burned brain cells, but the real risk is to your lungs (bronchitis and emphysema). "Marijuana smoke has more tar and hazardous materials than tobacco smoke," Swift says.

Time Frame: Just like with cigarettes, the effects of smoking pot are incremental. If you use for a decade, you're looking at trouble.

How to Play it Safe: "Marijuana is pretty safe," Swift says. "It's bad judgment that gets people in trouble." One study reveals that smokers gained an average of 3.1 pounds in the first five days of use—so make sure you puff with no Doritos in sight. Time to give up the bong, too: The cooler smoke encourages deeper inhalation.


Heather Sachs Blattman, a dietitian in New York, suggests combating the dehydration and impaired metabolism that follow a heavy night by eating a meal rich in fiber, protein, and antioxidants, like egg whites with whole-grain toast and fruit—and drinking lots of fluids, preferably with electrolytes. "VitaminWater's Revive is great to get you back in balance," she says. And keep your workout light, says Mark Jenkins, a personal trainer with clients like Diddy. "Skip the weights," he says. "They raise your blood pressure, and that might increase your headache."

—Katie Hintz

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