NEIL Fisher was your typical Central Queenslander.
Hard-working, honest and a short gasp away from a heart attack.
Fortunately for the popular Rockhampton councillor he had a wake-up call last month before it was too late.
But, he fears others may not be so lucky.
Alarming new Heart Foundation data shows the Fitzroy region as Australia's fifth worst area for coronary heart disease mortality rate.
The startling revelations list the Fitzroy region as third worst in the state for coronary heart disease mortality, seventh in the state for heart-related hospital admissions, ninth in the state for the prevalence of smoking, and fourth in obesity.
Central Queenslanders top the state average, with a smoking rate 40% higher than the Queensland average, an obesity rate 20% higher, and a high risk alcohol consumption 15% higher.
These high levels of high-risk activities, combined with poor diet, lack of exercise and hereditary issues, are some of the major factors why the region's health is one of the worst in the country.
"Lifestyle factors like weight, smoking and your activity levels have a big impact on your risk of developing heart disease," said Heart Foundation health director Rachelle Foreman.
With such a high prevalence of heart disease, Central Queensland Health has begun rolling out initiatives such as the 10,000 Lives program that will help 17,000 Queenslanders quit smoking by 2030, and a range of obesity, diabetes, alcohol and mental well-being programs under their 2030 Health and Wellbeing Strategy.
The Destination 2030: Great Care for Central Queenslanders strategy is another Queensland Health initiative that will aim to make central Queenslanders "amongst the healthiest in the world".
Cr Fisher now knows only to well the importance of making the right heart decisions.
He had his abrupt wake-up call shortly before flying out to China, when it was discovered he had a potentially life-threatening bowel blockage that would have killed him if he'd boarded the plane.
"I'm still in a recovery period," Cr Fisher told the Morning Bulletin.
"I've still got a way to go but already my diet has changed significantly.
"I talked about that with a dietician and we went through what I shouldn't be eating and what I should be eating more of and that included having a bigger meal in the morning that includes eggs and a lot more fruit.
"And the biggest thing was cutting down my meal size."
After getting rid of all the big plates in his house, cutting down his meat intake, increasing his vegetables, and committing to walking every day, Cr Fisher began to see progress, and every day he was "feeling so much better".
"Central Queensland has always had a reputation; we're hard workers. And I think we get so engrossed in our work, that we'd rather have a smoke break rather than a meal break," he said.
"We finish a long day and people would rather go have a few beers.
"We make the wrong decisions for meal breaks. Because we're working longer, we're taking those short cuts. So, take-away food over a home cooked meal, the veggies get missed, and instead of going to work with fruit we're going to the confectionery machine and grabbing a packet of chips."
Cr Fisher also contributes the habit of eating the wrong things at the wrong times, stress, and a lack of sleep for many of the health issues affecting Central Queenslanders, as well as the catalyst for his own health problems.
"We're living life in a rush and that's where some of those decisions are made ... We need to slow down and just re-evaluate life ... Instead of working 15 hours a day, we (need to) bring it back a bit and think of ourselves and our families," he said.
Cr Fisher encouraged Rocky locals to take advantage of the opportunities available around town, such as the walkways along the Riverbank, and on Frenchville Road, and the local markets that supply fresh fruit and vegetables.
"You can't teach an old dog new tricks, but this old dog is starting to learn a few," he said.
A walking group also meets outside Stockland Rockhampton from Monday to Friday at 7am.