A healthy attitude is as important to wellbeing as a healthy lifestyle, a heart attack victim says.

Napier woman Chess Severyn-Parrish is on a mission to inspire others who have experienced a serious heart event that life can go on.

When she felt pain in her chest last September, Ms Severyn-Parrish put it down to muscle strain from heavy lifting at work the day before.

"But I'd experienced the same pain earlier in the year so I decided to visit my GP, who carried out tests which showed I'd actually had a significant heart event."


Ms Severyn-Parrish headed off to Wellington Hospital for three days and had a stent inserted to open up the blocked artery, allowing the blood to flow normally to her heart.

She then returned home to start the hard work addressing her health and lifestyle.

The 46-year-old faced a number of challenges to improving her health.

She was overweight, smoked, had high blood pressure, type two diabetes and a family history of heart disease.

Just two months later, she had increased her exercise, improved her diet and quit smoking.

"I have definitely seen an improvement.

Ms Severyn-Parrish said it was always difficult to make a lifestyle change but attitude was paramount.

"What it really comes down to is the way you approach it."

Her goal is to do better today than she did yesterday.

"I see my new life as a marathon, not a sprint. It's about sustained endurance being the key to lasting improvement."

One of the most helpful things for Ms Severyn-Parrish was starting an exercise group for women called Wahine With Attitude.

She said through the group she had been able to both receive and offer support.

"I help women approach health issues from a spiritual, mental and physical side."

She said all three must be embraced to balance life. Ms Severyn-Parrish is now passionate about urging others to make good life choices, rather than be forced into them by ill health.

Throughout February, thousands of volunteers will be hitting the streets nationwide to raise funds for the Heart Foundation's month-long Annual Appeal. Hawke's Bay's street collection is today.