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Maya Angelou's 4 Secrets for Lifelong Health Success

Angelou at AARP Magazine's 2011 Inspire Awards. (Photo by Riccardo S. Savi/WireImage)

Poet, bestselling author, activist, celebrity...Dr. Maya Angelou plays many roles. And just in time for National Women's Health Week (going on now!), she added another, as a spokesperson for Forsyth Medical Center's Maya Angelou Center for Women's Health & Wellness in North Carolina. Besides offering treatment, the center will focus heavily on women's health education, both in the U.S. and in underdeveloped nations.

To learn more about the partnership and how she stays so healthy and vital, we called Angelou for a revealing chat.

  1. Focus on prevention. That's what sets the new center apart, Angelou explains. It's not just about treating issues like obesity and AIDS, it's about stopping them before they start. One tip Angelou would like to share with young women today? Don't forget to protect yourself in the bedroom. "Oh please, if you think your man hasn't gone with anyone else...Don't take a chance with your life!"
  2. Eat your greens. Whether you prefer spinach in your green smoothie or a salad before dinner, veggies have many benefits. "I was raised in Arkansas by my grandmother who was a gardener," Angelou says. "If my hair broke while she was braiding it, she'd say, 'sister, we're going to have to start making you some greens!' She would cook me some and it would work. There would be no pimples on my face either. I still believe a pot of greens will help me go to sleep at night!" Today, if Angelou was hosting a dinner party for her famous friends, she'd cook smothered chicken, rice and a "pile of asparagus" with fresh lemon juice and olive oil.
  3. Find joy in movement. Angelou studied dance as a teen, and particularly enjoyed modern ballet and African styles. Today, she still treasures the beauty of the steps, spins and sambas. "I'm 84 now and don't do the things I once did. But the ways the human body can propel itself—it still makes me smile," Angelou says.
  4. Be present. If something doesn't seem right with your body or your health, don't ignore it. "You don't have to compete with professional models who wear a size six, but if you look in the mirror and don't like what you see, you know what you have to do. Advocate for your own self and don't live in a fantasy place," Angelou suggests.

In honor of the opening, Maya Angelou Center wants to hear about what inspired you to take control of your health. Visit to share your story and enter the "Healthy Inspirations" contest. Part of the winner's submission will be shared inside the center and runners-up win a signed copy of Angelou's Phenomenal Woman.