When Palmerston North woman Beverley Ball was diagnosed with heart problems, she expected her quality of life to go downhill.
But instead, at 76 years old, the self-described "young-oldie" has a spring in her step and a busy schedule helping the community.
Miss Ball's heart conditions were picked up in 2008 when she visited the doctor for a diabetes checkup.
"I didn't know anything about it until I went for the checkup and they discovered I had an irregular heartbeat and enlarged left ventricle and that set things in motion," she said. "I thought I missed out because my three younger brothers had bypass surgery and my two older sisters suffer from heart conditions - I thought I had been clever."
Miss Ball said the news came as a bit of a shock because doctors had never previously suspected any problems.
"What did surprise me was that the doctor didn't notice the irregular heart beat and they had been checking because of my high blood pressure," she said. "The fact I have an enlarged left ventricle suggested it might have been like that all my life and no-one had known."
Adjusting to life after her diagnosis was challenging for Miss Ball, who was ordered to do a variety of medical tests and she was put on blood thinning medication.
"The podiatrist told me since I'm on [the medication] he didn't think I should cut my own toenails," she said. "Diabetics have trouble with foot injuries and if you combine that with bleeding, it's not a good combo."
But last year Miss Ball found a new lease on life after making up her mind to "start moving and do something".
She began attending Direction Cardiac Club, supported by the Heart Foundation, for people with a history of heart conditions and has "never felt better".
In fact, Miss Ball looks so healthy she has regularly been asked for proof of being a superannuant.
"The doctor told me growing old is never easy and I said ‘no, especially when no-one believes how old you are'," she said. "And he looked at me and said ‘if I didn't have it written down I wouldn't believe it either'."
Miss Ball will take part in the annual Heart Foundation street collection on Friday and Saturday this week.
"I've come to the conclusion that if you don't use it, you lose it, and when you can do it, you should," she said.
"If the charity has the money they can do more research and that means more chance of eliminating heart problems. I do it because I can."
Heart Foundation medical director Professor Norman Sharpe said the not-for-profit, non-government organisation relied on the generous support of New Zealanders.
"Since we started 45 years ago, heart disease death rates in New Zealand have been reduced by more than two-thirds," he said.
The charity's annual appeal runs from February 10 to 16.
Donations can be made to street collectors on February 14 and 15, at heartfoundation.org.nz or at any Postshop Kiwibank.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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