Grooming Michael Clark Duncan stands out among many memories from back when I was a Hollywood makeup artist. I remember the size of his head. I had never used that much makeup to cover someone's dome before. His big, friendly, split-tooth smile could flash at any moment and I couldn't help but grin back. He loved watching cartoons and was a devout mama's boy. He adored his mother. These are things I know about Michael.

But what I don't know is why a man of such strength and stature is gone because his heart gave out on Sept. 3, at the tender age of 54. And yes, I said tender — I'm sure you got the memo: 54 is the new 44, and it's much too young to cash it in.

It gives me pause and prompts me to rededicate myself to my job. My job, in a nutshell, is to continually remind you that your body is capable of so much more than you may realize — that recovery, healing and rebuilding are what you do best, and they happen without you even thinking about it. Yes, that's a precious machine you're driving. How cool is it that blood courses through your veins at about 2.4 ounces per heartbeat, or about 1,900 gallons per day? You'll sit, run, dance, whatever. All the while, right there in the center of your chest, beat after beat, steadily cruising along with the flow of your life, is an ethereal center of love, and a powerful muscle as well.

Your heat is at the center of you, so if there's stress in your life, your heart perceives that stress. And since heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and Western world, accounting for about one of every three deaths, we are all touched by its ravages. I was touched — more like smacked in the face — by it last December when Juan, my young gardener, had a heart attack in my front yard. More about it here: www.gotoloa.com/heart-disease-juan.

MSNBC.com reports that more than 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease every day. That's about one death every 39 seconds. It's time to know more about ourselves and how we really function. We've heard the strategy: Exercise, don't smoke, lower your cholesterol, yadda-yadda. If we've been paying attention at all, we're on that already, and yet still heart disease prevails. So let's step to the side and see something more.

We are each responsible for the stress we perceive, and we each deal with stress from our own unique perspective. Example: Two separate people, stuck in traffic, late for an appointment. One may be sweating, crazed and cursing while the other is enjoying a song on the radio. Both are in the same situation but with completely different reactions. How our body reacts is our personal responsibility. To achieve the status of “enjoying the music while running late” requires practice. It starts with setting aside a few minutes each day to release thoughts, listen to your breath and let go of tension in the neck and shoulders (or wherever you hold tension). These are the tools of meditation.

Wise people are feeling the importance of meditation and adding its practice to their day. There are so many styles and different types of meditation. What I like my students to know is that it's a practice that's very personally your own. There is no absolute right or wrong way to meditate. It takes focus and a little courage to be alone with yourself while you embrace the quiet and the unknown. If you're prone to racing thoughts, it can be a real challenge. But it is so worth it.

Meditation belongs on the list as part of our strategy. Along with what we do, it's how we feel on a deep level that matters. Meditation helps to manage our heart rate, our disposition and our overall state of being. It's part of the plan to live long and well.

Rest in peace Michael, Juan and all others who have gone too soon.

LOA BLASUCCI is an author and owner of All Health's Breaking Loose Wellness Retreats. Gotoloa.com.