Jaclyn Smith on Staying Healthy

Movie and TV star and cancer survivor Jaclyn Smith shares the strategies that rein in her health risks—starting with the routine screening that saved her life.

Linda Childers
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When asked about her recipe for success, Jaclyn Smith is the first to cite her good fortune. She gushes about her happy Texas childhood, wonderful marriage (to heart surgeon Bradley Allen), two awesome kids, amazing girlfriends...and her star-making turn on a little show called Charlie’s Angels.

But she’ll also tell you that “success is carved from a hard tree.” And there’s no doubt the 67-year-old stunner has learned a thing or two about staying power: She was the only “angel” to stick with the hit series for its entire run, one of the first celebs to launch a successful clothing line (her collaboration with Kmart has lasted over 25 years), and savvy enough to parlay pop stardom into a 40-year career that spans movies, TV mini-series and even a reality show (she hosted Bravo’s hair-styling competition, Shear Genius).

Yet there were a couple wake-up calls that tested her hard-earned wisdom. The first surprise came when her father developed heart problems. “My dad, Jack, suffered from high blood pressure, and even though he was able to control his symptoms with diet and exercise, he had cardiac problems later in life,” says Jaclyn, whose father died in 1993. While Jaclyn has no signs of heart disease, his diagnosis drove home the point that even health-conscious folks shouldn’t take their well-being for granted. Even though she’s always embraced a healthy lifestyle (“I’ve never touched a drug, I don’t drink and I don’t smoke”), Jaclyn redoubled her efforts to eat better and squeeze in more exercise.

Which probably explains why she wasn’t particularly worried when her doctor saw something suspicious on a routine mammogram in 2002—even after he ordered an ultrasound and two biopsies. “I still thought, I’m fine, because I couldn’t have felt better and there hadn’t been any cancer in my family,” she remembers. When the test results confirmed it was cancer, her usual self-confidence was shaken. “It’s very surreal. Your world is not spinning right. It’s frightening, and you have to take in so much and educate yourself in a way that you didn’t want to educate yourself.”

After successful treatment with a lumpectomy and radiation, Jaclyn is still cancer-free today, and she credits the experience with giving her renewed vigor. It also confirmed her belief that feeling young and staying healthy were one and the same. “Let’s keep ourselves in the best shape we can for our health,” suggests Jaclyn. “But let’s also be relaxed about it. My mom grew older gracefully and beautifully by not obsessing.” Here, Jaclyn shares the strategies that keep her strong and stress-free:

Mind those screenings!
“I was very fortunate that I went in for my yearly mammogram. It was found thanks to early detection, and that’s the key to a good prognosis,” notes Jaclyn. Unfortunately, many of us aren’t so prompt: Research from Virginia Commonwealth University shows that 46% of recommended health tests are skipped at yearly exams. Discuss what tests you may need with your healthcare provider.

September 2012