What to Know About Jean Smart's Health

Jean Smart

Jean Smart began taking her health more seriously after the shocking death of her husband of three decades, actor and Designing Women and 24 co-star Richard Gilliland, in March 2021 following a brief illness that she later revealed was a heart condition.

Smart has two sons with Gilliland: Connor, who's an adult, and 15-year-old Forest. Connor moved in with her and Forest to help after Gilliland's passing.

"My youngest has just turned 15. He's still in school, and it's frightening to think of your kids having to possibly deal with things without you," she told PEOPLE in September 2023. "It just made more sense for me to get smarter about my health decisions. I'm the one running the show now, completely on my own, and if something happens to me, what happens to my kids?"

The beloved Hacks star also had an appendectomy in summer 2023. Prior to that, she revealed to Parade that she was hospitalized after falling down stairs on the set of Mare of Easttown.

Smart served as a spokeswoman for the Pfizer "Know Plan Go" campaign to raise awareness of COVID-19 risks—because for high-risk individuals, it's still very much a danger.

"It hasn't gone away—and 75 percent of American adults have at least one risk factor," she told PEOPLE, explaining she contracted COVID for the first time in January 2023. "I had been sort of cocky about the fact that I had gone through the previous couple of years unscathed, but I contracted it at the Golden Globes. So I know how important it was for me to be know my risks and be prepared."

Find out Jean Smart's health history, including about her heart surgery, diabetes and charmingly honest take on aging.

Related: Jean Smart's Best Roles So Far

How old is Jean Smart?

At the time of this writing, Smart is 72 years young. Her birthday is Sept. 13, 1951.

She joked to The New Yorker in June 2021 that she is "incredibly vain," explaining, "I'm in complete denial about my age and my looks right now. I see myself onscreen and I go, 'What? Who is that?' But, luckily, I'm slightly more vain about my acting. Thank God."

In 2022, she told Parade that she expects to live a long time, though it's bittersweet doing so without Gilliland by her side.

"A million years ago, I had two separate psychics tell me I was gonna live to be 98, so I've decided I’m going to live to 98," she said. "That's made me really happy. Until last year."

Related: What to Know About Hacks Season 3

Did Jean Smart have heart surgery?

She did.

In February 2023, Smart revealed on Instagram that she'd recently undergone a "successful heart procedure."

She added, "I am fortunate to have excellent care and support from family and friends while I continue to recuperate. Please listen to your body and talk to your doctor—I'm very glad I did!"

Smart hasn't revealed in detail what sort of procedure she had, but did discuss what led her to go under the knife.

She told PEOPLE that after the heartbreaking death of her husband, she was forced to take her own health more seriously, if not for her own sake, then for that of their children.

"If I hadn't been in the position of being a single mom, I'm not sure I would have pursued [medical attention] as quickly as I did. I wasn't feeling right after working on some scenes in the show [Hacks] and just thought, 'Oh, don't be stupid. Make an appointment with your doctor,'" she recalled. "It was pretty serious and unexpected and scary, but I had fabulous medical help, so it went to plan."

Hacks paused filming temporarily for Season 3 to allot time for Smart's recovery.

Related: Why Jean Smart Felt She and Hannah Einbinder Had to 'Prove Themselves' on Hacks

Is Jean Smart diabetic?

Smart has Type 1 diabetes, and she's credited the condition with getting her into acting.

"My mother insisted that I stay in Seattle for college. I had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was 13, and she still hadn't gotten over that by the time I was getting ready to graduate high school," Smart told The New Yorker. "She was afraid, I think, for me to go out of state to school." As a result, Smart said she has "[her] mother and [her] diabetes to thank" for her enrolling in theatre at the University of Washington.

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