There are times when Jessica Zinna’s heart starts racing uncontrollably without any clear reason.
The Waubra mum said the hardest part was her condition is invisible, most people struggle to understand the palpitations, chills and sweats, the chest pain and exhaustion, or heightened anxiety she feels.
Jess wants to change this. She wants to break myths about women and heart conditions and pregnancy.
Known from Beauty and the Geek reality television as the beauty who married a Farmer Wants a Wife country bloke, Jess is sharing her story to shine a spotlight on women and heart disease.
She does so as part of Heart Foundation’s Making the Invisible Visible campaign this month.
Jess has inappropriate sinus tachycardia, a condition that tends to affect young, fit and small-stature women. It can take Jess’ resting heart rate to more than 100 beats per minute. Other times her heart rate can sit consistently high.
“I was in my early 20s the first time it happened. Straight away I thought I was having a heart attack. I had all the symptoms of a heart attack,” Jess said.
“I’m now really sensitive to adrenaline. It trigger that fight or flight response in me with minimal stress.”
At its worst, Jess needs an ambulance and time in hospital to monitor to ensure it does not escalate into a more dangerous heart issue. Often, Jess has to remove herself from social situations, taking time to try and slow her heart with breathing techniques.
Jess said the conditions is debilitating but wants women to know it need not rule their life and while pregnancy can be one of the biggest tests for heart stress, it was possible to have a baby with extra medical care.
All went relatively smoothly when Jess was pregnant with her son, now aged four.
This time, 27 weeks into her second pregnancy, it has been tougher on Jess as her body and heart adapts again. Her biggest concern has been in knowing her baby will be okay.
“This pregnancy has been really rough. There’s been a lot of hard days but the biggest part of it I want women to know, it there is light at the end of the tunnel...you just have to be a bit more vulnerable and have a good support network,” Jess said.
“There’s been a lot of appointments and constant text messaging or calling my doctors, my dream team, they’ve had to monitor me really close.”
Each year up to 30,000 women suffer from hypertensive pregnancy disorders, according to the Heart Foundation. New research shows these conditions can raise the risk of heart disease later in life by two to four times compared with other mothers.
Incredibly active before her condition, Jess has also worked closely with her cardiologist and gym coach to delicately build up training toward her first body building competition.
”The biggest message I want to give women is don’t ignore anything with your heart,” Jess said. “Get it checked out straight away.”