Stories of the Heart: With healthy lifestyle, heart attack survivor never saw it coming

Local News

"It's amazing that someone like me can have two heart attacks," said teacher Elizabeth Johnson

(WYTV) – On the first Friday of every February, the American Heart Association encourages everyone in the nation to wear red for “Go Red for Women Day.” The idea is to raise awareness for heart disease because the more a woman knows about it, the better chance she has of beating it.

One local woman embodies that message.

As a seventh-grade math teacher, Elizabeth Johnson knows you can’t judge a book by its cover, let alone a person.

“I just think it’s really important. When people look at me they’re like, ‘Oh, she’s a really healthy girl.’ It is amazing that someone like me can have two heart attacks,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s heart journey started almost four years ago. She had just finished lunch and was heading back into the classroom.

“All of a sudden, I felt like I was coming down with the flu. I was sweating and felt nauseous. I ended up leaving the classroom and getting sick, coming back and I thought I could shake it off,” she said.

But she couldn’t.

“So I finished teaching my 90-minute block and then I decided to drive myself to Urgent Care,” she said.

In hindsight, Johnson said she doesn’t recommend driving yourself to the hospital. But, she never thought in a million years she would have a heart attack.

“I work out daily, eat healthy, I get my bloodwork done regularly. I’m a healthy person. I did not think healthy people had heart attacks,” she said.

Johnson was diagnosed with what’s known as a SCAD (spontaneous coronary artery dissection) heart attack.

“Basically, one of the arteries of my heart was tearing and then it ended up clotting which caused the heart attack,” she said.

A year and a half later, she suffered a second one.

“That was my bad one, I ended up in the ICU. From there, I’ve basically damaged my heart so now I’m in heart failure and I had an ICD implanted to keep me from going into cardiac arrest,” Johnson said.

Johnson is on medication to help keep her heart rate low.

She also likes to show off her pacemaker.

As a mother of three, Johnson is also instilling heart-healthy lessons into her family’s lives by making sure her kids eat healthy and exercise. They even do a nightly plank challenge before bed.

“Just being aware of your body. I’m so happy I’ve always exercised, eaten healthy. My doctors have all said that that truly helped me save my life,” she said.

On this national Go Red for Women Day, Johnson is using her story to help others and raise awareness.

“If you can make a donation to the American Heart Association, the more money that’s out there the more research that’s done. This is a new type of heart attack so if we can get more money out there it could go for funding,” Johnson said.

Heart disease and stroke claim the life of a woman every 80 seconds, causing 1 in 3 deaths among women each year — more than all cancers combined. But, about 80% of cardiovascular diseases can be prevented.

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Mel Robbins Main Area Middle

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