TRACEY GINN felt she was a "typical, average mum", rushing her children about, working and being an active community member on a couple of committees.
Until she had to stare her own mortality in the face.
Ms Ginn had a heart attack, aged 45. Almost two years on, Ms Ginn implores all women to really understand what feels normal for you - especially typical, average mums who tend to put off making their own health needs a priority.
New Heart Foundation data released on Tuesday confirms the Ballarat region ranks second in the state for obesity levels with 38.7 per cent of people classed as obese compared to the 24 per cent Victorian average.
Greater Shepparton (39.8 per cent) tops the state for obesity, a leading cause of heart disease. Both Shepparton and Ballarat, with LaTrobe-Gippsland (38.2 per cent), are in the nation's top 10 heaviest regions.
A heart incident was a stark reminder for Ms Ginn to take care of herself to be the best mum she could for her two children.
For Ms Ginn, there was no chest pain, a popularised notion for heart attacks, but a small, intense burning sensation above her elbow and a persistent nausea. She sensed something was not right and hospital blood tests revealed she had had a heart attack. Further tests revealed a 60 per cent blockage that has been treated with medication and ongoing lifestyle changes.
"If I can be frank, it scared the hell out of me, especially every time I looked at the kids," Ms Ginn said. "Last year I lost 20 kilos and that was purely because I didn't put anything in my mouth I didn't need to eat or that was not good for me.
"I also got my blood pressure in check. Before, I wasn't even aware if it was high or low. I rarely went to the doctor - that was usually only for the kids. But I was one of the lucky ones, I got checked.
"I also stopped saying 'yes' to everything and everyone...I really had to reduce my stress and pare back my load. It makes you re-prioritise everything."
I rarely went to the doctor - that was usually only for the kids. But I was one of the lucky ones, I got checked.Tracey Ginn
Ms Ginn's only family history was her father dying of a heart attack, aged 57.
The rate of coronary heart disease deaths in Ballarat is 68 deaths per 100,000 people, according to new Australian Heart Maps. Warrnambool South-West (73.9 per 100,000 people) led the state in coronary heart disease deaths with a rate 20 per cent higher than the state average of 61.5.
Heart Foundation data also shows 17.5 per cent of people in the Ballarat region smoke compared to 13 per cent statewide. The foundation's data region also take in all, or part of the following councils and shires: Ararat, Ballarat, Central Goldfields, Golden Plains, Hepburn, Loddon, Moorabool, Mount Alexander, Pyrenees.
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Heart Foundation Victoria chief Kellie-Ann Jolly said there was a great divide between regional and metropolitan communities in regards to heart health.
"What these alarming figures tell us is that social and economic disadvantage matter for your heart," Ms Jolly said. "Victorians who live in the state's most disadvantaged areas are more likely to have significant risk factors, be hospitalised for heart attack or die from coronary heart disease.
"We know better heart health is linked with secure work, safe affordable housing, good education, access to healthy food and appropriate health services...We need government, communities, industry and individuals working together to address these inequalities."
Ms Jolly urged people to better understand their heart risks.
For Ms Ginn, blood tests and cholesterol checks are now a normal part of staying safe.
"I feel a lot better," Ms Ginn said. "In the early days there was a lot of anxiety, you're scared to be on your own. There are a lot of 'just in case' thoughts in my head...There always will be those thoughts but I'm okay with that because it reminds me to stick to those lifestyle choices to keep safe."
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