For the past two years, Oprah admits she's taken her health for granted. "I didn't appreciate what this body has done for me," she says. After falling off the weight loss wagon and gaining 40 pounds, Oprah says she had a wake-up call that made her thankful for every part of her body—from the tip of her toes to the top of her head.
"I am so grateful for everything. My bones for carrying me. My heart for beating. My lungs for pumping air," she says. "You need to love yourself enough to know that you being healthy is worth it."
Oprah hopes everyone will make 2009 the year they put themselves back on their to-do lists. To help you get started, Dr. Oz is sharing his Ultimate Health Checklist, a complete guide to health and wellness. He's here to tell you what to eat, what to avoid and which medical tests could save your life.
Think it's too late to take control of your health? Laura Plummer, a past guest, is proof that it's never too late. When Oprah and Dr. Oz first met Laura in February 2008, this 44-year-old mother was an avid smoker who didn't exercise. She also admitted that stress was taking a toll on her emotional and physical health.
Dr. Oz and his partner, Dr. Michael Roizen of the internationally renowned Cleveland Clinic, asked Laura to take a Real Age test, which helps patients understand how their lifestyle choices can affect their life expectancy. The results were shocking. Though Laura was just 44 years old, the test said she was closer to 60. The good news? Dr. Oz told Laura she could turn her life around by kicking her smoking habit and making better choices.
"I certainly don't want my body to be that old. I don't want my mind to be that old. I don't want my lungs to be that old. I just want to be 44," Laura said. "It's the beginning of my journey—my journey on to health and fitness and feeling good and being 44 instead of 60. This is the start."
After getting some tough love from Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen, Laura decided to take action. Over the past 12 months, she completely transformed her health by following the Ultimate Health Checklist. So far, she's lost nearly 40 pounds! "[You have] a new lease on life!" Oprah says. "Fantastic."
In fact, Laura's lifestyle changes have added years to her life expectancy. The results of her latest Real Age test show that this 45-year-old now has the health of a 41-year-old woman! "By taking better care of yourself and becoming conscious of the way you live and your choices, you've taken almost 20 years off of your age," Oprah says.
The first thing Laura did to improve her health was kick her nicotine addiction. "I never thought I would quit smoking," she says. "The first couple [of] days were a little rough, but after that, I don't think about it. I don't want one. I don't want a puff."
Next, Laura overhauled her diet. "I would say that my diet was absolutely horrific, [a] kill you kind of diet," she says. "It was nothing but grease and fat." These days, Laura starts the morning with a cup of coffee and a bowl of steel-cut oats or a cup of yogurt mixed with fresh fruit. "My fruit of choice for breakfast is blueberries—high in antioxidants," she says. "I sprinkle my food with the flaxseed meal. Flaxseed is high in omega-3 s. It's a good fat."
No healthy lifestyle is complete without a commitment to exercise. Laura says she's stopped taking the elevator and instead walks up five flights of stairs. "It's very important for me to maintain my 10,000 to 15,000 steps a day," she says. "A year ago, I could not have thought ever of coming up five flights of stairs. Now. it's a piece of cake."
Laura is also dealing with stress differently. "Before when I was stressed out, it was a smoke-a-thon," she says. "I would smoke and smoke and then eat and eat." Now, Laura says she takes a walk or meditates when times get tough. "It's a mind-body-spirit thing going on here," she says. "Your mind's better, your spirit's better. I'm calm. I'm relaxed. I just feel good."
If you want to feel better and start living your best life, Oprah says to start by answering one question: Why you are worthy of getting healthy this year?
If you're ready to make the commitment, Dr. Oz says it's time for Step 1 on his 2009 Ultimate Health Checklist: Find a doctor and schedule a checkup.
"People who have doctors live longer, and they live better," he says. "If you don't have a doc, it's like going into dock with a big ship without a captain on board. You end up smacking into the wall of the dock, and you cause more problems that you can't fix down the road."
Dr. Oz says there are state and federal programs designed to help you find a doctor, but the key is to choose the right physician. During your first visit, Dr. Oz says there are key questions to consider. "When you go to their office, do the other patients … look like you? Are they board certified? Do they get along with the staff?" he says. "If you get along with them, that person becomes your health coach. Because, remember, the word doctor means teacher, so it's a two-way street. If you come up with the right person, you're on the right path."
Even if you're one of 50 million Americans without health insurance, Dr. Oz says it's important to take this step. "There are free clinics. There are community health plans. If you really don't have enough money to afford a doctor, usually you'll qualify for Medicaid," he says. "But … I don't want to let people off the hook either. Half the people in America who don't have health insurance have some money. They just make the economic decision to not buy it because it's so expensive."
Dr. Oz says it's important not to sacrifice your health to save money. "You can get access to a physician. Go to their office. Talk to them. They'll work something out with you," he says. "We're trained to heal. Give us a chance."
When Dr. Oz and Oprah met Jillian in 2006, she was 50 pounds overweight and out of shape. She was also sleeping as many as 18 hours a day. "It's difficult to be awake for any stretch of time," she said. "If I ever woke up with energy, a couple hours later, it will be completely depleted."
Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen traveled to Jillian's home for a health intervention. There, they discovered her diet was the main problem. For breakfast, Jillian said she usually ate a grilled Reuben sandwich with fries. She washed down the greasy, salty food with 300 ounces of soda a day—equal to four six-packs.
After a lesson in healthy cooking and yoga, Jillian took control of her health. Six months later, she came on The Oprah Show 40 pounds lighter and full of energy.
It's been almost three years…has she kept the weight off or fallen off the wagon? Thanks to hard work and dedication, Jillian is still looking and feeling great. She's even training for her first marathon!
To get in shape, Jillian followed the Ultimate Health Checklist, and she says the key to her success was Step 2.
Dr. Oz reveals Step 2: Know the five ingredients to avoid. "It's called the rule of fives," he says. "When you look on the back of a food label, they have to list the ingredients from the most common to the least common. You want to actually make sure these five ingredients are not in the top five on the food label."
What's the first offender? High fructose corn syrup. "We most commonly get this in soft drinks," Dr. Oz says. "It's an inexpensive sugar, which means we're getting a lot of it in our diet."
Now that you know what to purge from your pantry, you're ready for Step 3: Add healthy foods to your diet.
Dr. Oz suggests starting with foods that don't need a label, like fresh fruits and vegetables. "If they're coming out of the ground looking the way they look when you eat them, they're good for you in general," he says.
Step 4 should be the easiest thing to start today: Take a multivitamin every single day. But anyone who's gone shopping for multivitamins knows there's a lot to consider.
Step 5 requires more than a shopping cart, but it's crucial to living your healthiest life. What do you need to do? Know your numbers.
Dr. Oz says to grab a measuring tape and start with your waist size. "Measure at your belly button," he says. "Ideally, your waist size should be less than half your height. For most men, that means less than 40 inches, and for most women, less than 37 inches."
Once you have a handle on your love handles, check your blood pressure. Of all the numbers you need to know, Dr. Oz says this one is the most important. "If the systolic or first number is 140 or above or if your diastolic or second number is 90 or more, alert your doctor," he says. The ideal blood pressure is approximately 115 over 75.
Another number to take note of is your resting heart rate. Take your pulse when you get out of bed in the morning and strive to get it as close to 60 as possible, Dr. Oz says.
Oprah says she knows firsthand the importance of Step 6. Find a health advocate. In the midst of her recent thyroid scare, she says she had issues with sleeplessness, blood pressure, heart palpitations and leg swelling. So she went to visit her doctor. Then another doctor. And another. And another. "By the time I'd been to the fourth doctor, I was on heart medication, I was on blood pressure medication and for heart palpitations," she says. "But still not sleeping."
Frustrated, Oprah went to see Dr. Roizen at the Cleveland Clinic. After seeing so many doctors who did not listen to all Oprah's questions and symptoms, Dr. Roizen assembled several doctors to consider all the facts. "You listened to your body," Dr. Roizen says. "You felt your body wasn't feeling as good as it should be, so you kept asking questions."
"What Mike did for you was be your health advocate," Dr. Oz says. "When you're under the stress of all these diagnoses coming at you, you can't always process this information accurately. Get someone who's been there before whom you trust and make them your partner in this process."
Dr. Oz says a health advocate can be anyone—your spouse, child, relative or friend. "Bring someone who's actually going to pay attention and understands the process and takes notes," he says.
One of the reasons Dr. Roizen assembled a team of doctors at the Cleveland Clinic to assess Oprah's health questions is because communication is essential. To help your doctor accurately diagnose you, follow Step 7: Organize your health records.
Step 8: Get the medical tests you need. First things first, Dr. Oz says everyone should get an annual checkup, see their dentist every six months and get an eye exam every two years. The rest of your health test schedule depends on your age and gender.
Dr. Oz says there is one test all women—particularly if you are over 60—should get. "For women, you want to know your bone density, especially if you have a family history of osteoporosis, if you smoke cigarettes, [drink] alcohol."
For men, the test, Dr. Oz says, is a digital rectal exam. "I'm not talking about 'computer' digital. I'm talking about [fingers]," Dr. Oz says.
In November 2007, we met Frank and Elaine, a couple with an unhealthy—but not uncommon—lifestyle. At the time, Frank was a 52-year-old part-time professional bowler who suffered from severe heart disease. Elaine was a 45-year-old insurance broker who said she felt more like 65.
Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen performed some health tests on them and delivered a devastating wake-up call. Fat made up more than half of Elaine's body…and Frank's body was an astounding 68 percent fat! "What I'm really telling you, Frank, is I'm looking at a man who's going to die at least 15 years prematurely," Dr. Oz said.
With that reality in mind, Frank and Elaine were determined to change their lifestyle. When we saw them just six months later, the change was stunning. Frank had lost 60 pounds, and Elaine dropped 30.
Now more than a year later, Frank and Elaine are healthier than ever! Frank has lost another 40 pounds for a total of 103 pounds. And Elaine has kept off the 30 pounds she lost—and dropped another 10—and says she's never felt better.
"Everybody says, 'What kind of diet you on?'" Frank says. "It's not a diet; we just changed our lives."
"Neighbors and friends, we have been such an inspiration for everybody in our community," Elaine says. "They're starting to follow the same eating habits that we've had."
To realize your healthiest self—and live your best life—you absolutely have to do Step 9. Start exercising. One of the most important things you can do, Dr. Oz says, is start walking.
"We're designed to walk. We won't get hurt walking," Dr. Oz says. "You can't get out of it, any excuses."
Your goal is to get up to 10,000 steps a day, but Dr. Oz says it's okay to start by walking for 30 minutes a day. This will make for 3,000 steps. Get your steps in with a pedometer and simple changes like taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
"Societies that have 10,000 steps under their belt every day don't have much under their belt," Dr. Oz says. "It's one of the best ways to stay thin."
While Steps 1 to 9 are important—Dr. Oz says they all go out the window if you skip Step 10. Get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.
"If you don't get sleep, you'll crave other things like carbohydrates," Dr. Oz says. "Sleep will also generate growth hormone. That's that vitality hormone that makes us nice and bouncy and youthful and vigorous and makes us stay beautiful. The best way of getting growth hormone is to sleep the seven hours we speak of."
Do you have trouble making time for sleep…or can't fall asleep? Dr. Oz says you need to change your routine!
You've got Dr. Oz's 10-step plan for your healthy 2009. Now it's time to start! "I think we're finally going to get it this year," Oprah says. "I think the shift for America is seeing real people do it and making the paradigm shift in your life."