(This is a version of an article published in The Healthy Hairdresser section of MODERN SALON February 2014.)

Have a (Healthy) Heart!If you notice a client doing leg lifts and kicks while her hair color is processing, she’s using her time wisely—giving her heart a mini-workout! Many of us do a lot of sitting in an average day, but the heart needs bodily movement to keep it pumping efficiently.

The statistics are daunting: heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, killing more Americans each year than all cancers combined; every 34 seconds someone in the U.S. has a heart attack, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). The good news is that, as a hairdresser, you’re not sitting. Yet, while standing burns more calories than sitting, it’s not as beneficial as walking. AHA suggests ways to build walking into your daily routine:

*Park far from buildings
*Go into the bank or restaurant instead of using the drive-through
*Walk the kids to school instead of driving them
*Take stairs instead of elevators and escalators

In recent years, more attention has specifically addressed women’s risk of heart disease. AHA’s Go Red for Women program each February promotes a National Wear Red Day to raise awareness. In the 11 years since launching Wear Red Day, Go Red for Women notes some accomplishments:

*21 percent fewer women dying from heart disease
*23 percent more women aware that heart disease is their #1 health threat
*Gender tracking, leading to the development of women-specific guidelines for prevention and treatment

Still, heart disease remains the biggest threat to women’s health as well as to men’s health. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) lists the five major heart attack symptoms:

*Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back
*Feeling weak, lightheaded or faint
*Chest pain or discomfort
*Pain or discomfort in arm or shoulder
*Shortness of breath

What can you do to prevent cardiovascular disease, which includes both heart disease and stroke? Plenty. Lifestyle has a lot to do with risk factors. CDC advises:

*Eat fresh fruits and vegetables along with foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol and high in fiber.
*Maintain your recommended weight.
*Exercise 30 minutes on every day that you can.
*Monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol.
*Don’t smoke!
*Limit alcohol to one drink a day for women, two for men.

If you've been prescribed medication to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, take it as directed.

Stress also plays a role. While you may not be able to eliminate the triggers—a no-show client, unexpected car repair or case of the flu—you can learn to control the way you react.

“Stress is not about the event,” says Ann Mincey Jetton, retired vice president of global communications for Redken 5th Avenue NYC and a recipient of City of Hope’s Spirit of Life Award. “Stress, which often manifests as anger, anxiety and upset, is our perception and our emotional response to feeling out of control.”

Mincey Jetton says the body responds by dumping cortisol and adrenaline into the nervous system, resulting in accelerated aging, reduced energy and a host of diseases. Look to your heart to minimize these effects, she advises.

“The heart is the seat of its own intelligence and can regulate the impulses to the brain,” Mincey Jetton notes. “Through breath and recreating feelings of appreciation, we actually have control over the negative effects of adrenaline and cortisol on our autonomic nervous system.” She offers three steps to process stressful events:

1. Heart Focus. “Putting focus on the area of the heart reduces the attention given to the stressor,” she says
2. Heart Breathing. Take long, slow, deep breaths through the nose, inhaling and exhaling each to the count of five for three repetitions.
3. Heart Feeling. Generate a feeling of appreciation/gratitude for something or someone. Says Mincey Jetton, “Recreate a pleasant experience, and sit in the ‘pool’ of deeper care of yourself.”

To learn more about the Intelligence of the Heart, Mincey Jetton recommends HeartMath.com.

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