How does the body recover from a short period of poor diet and exercise? (Specifically the heart)



Let’s say someone ate poorly (high fat, junk food diet) and exercised very little for 5-10 years in early adulthood. But maintained a fairly balanced lifestyle and healthy weight afterwards. Would the body “recover” from the negative effects of being overweight or does the lifestyle change simply pause the negative effects from increasing?

In: Biology

Some of the negative effects take quite some time to reverse, but they are mainly capable of being reversed such as cholesterol-containing deposits (plaques) in your coronary arteries.

Mostly the body will recover. If someone is extremely overweight/sedentary some diseases can start which are non-reversible, like CHF, fatty liver, and enlargement of the heart muscles. But those are extreme cases. Generally speaking clean living will get the body back to “normal” albeit slowly in some regards. It is markedly harder with age, though, and bad habits become harder and harder to break. Which is why it’s best to learn healthy habits early and make them lifelong.


It depends a lot on age. I read a study awhile ago that if you were obese and had poor diet and high cholesterol in childhood, you were at higher risk for health complications as an adult *even if* you are a healthy weight adult with normal vitals

Not a doctor, but the answer is certainly a bit of both. Buildup of fat tissue in the body from eating high-calorie foods can be easily reversed; it’s just the body’s way of storing energy for later. Buildup of sodium in the body can be reversed as well, since sodium routinely exits the body through urine. However, some of the conditions that arise from long periods of unhealthy lifestyle can cause irreversible damage, such as diabetes, hypertension, malnutrition, etc. Explaining why each particular condition is reversible or not is very complicated, and different for every case, but typically it’s a function of how quickly the body is able to get rid of certain substances, and whether they act by changing an environment or just straight up destroying it.

You can think of it like alcohol. You drink every once in a while, you’ll be fine. Even if you’re an alcoholic, you can recover with minimal side effects if you do so within a couple years but it will be difficult to do so. However, as soon as you start to develop liver cirrhosis, that damage is never going to heal even if you stop drinking.

I just wanted to say that we have very different definitions of “short periods.” I was thinking you meant a couple of weeks, not 5-10 years. Good think you clarified!

So many factors. Speaking very broadly most YOUNG adults without lasting damage (diabetes, heart rhythms ect) can very quickly bounce back. Our bodies don’t “hold” on to random stuff. Once you reduce calorie intake and increase calorie burn you WILL lose weight and also lose (in most cases) all the negative health effects that come with it.