United States

Heart Attack Survivor Uses ‘Bonus Life' to Pay It Forward

"I realized it was my personal mission in life to share my story in the hopes that I could one day save a life."

Mika Leah was a healthy person, or at least she thought she was. She kept herself physically fit. She ate right. She always made a point of taking care of herself. Besides, she was only 33 years old.

She had no idea that she was on the brink of a health crisis that nearly took her life.

"I went on this hike and it was an easy hike, but I couldn't breathe," she said. "I couldn't move and I had to sit down. It was in that moment that I knew something was seriously wrong with me."

She called her doctor, who shocked her by saying she needed to rush to the hospital for emergency heart surgery.

Cardiovascular disease kills 432,000 American women every year. Mika was nearly one of them. Doctors told her that her left main artery was 98 percent blocked. Mika's healthy lifestyle didn't prevent the heart attack, but doctors said it did save her life.

"Had I not been so physically fit and had I not taken care of myself, I would not be here," she said.

In the aftermath of her heart attack, Mika pledged to take full advantage of what she calls her "bonus life." She left her stressful job in advertising and placed her focus on her family.

"I would have missed my daughter scoring her first soccer goal," she said. "My son and I went to the mother-son dance and I thought 'who would he have taken?'"

One day she happened to be attending an event where a woman from the American Heart Association was speaking. Hearing the presentation made Mika wish she had been aware of her cardiovascular risk before it became life-threatening.

"I realized it was my personal mission in life to share my story in the hopes that I could one day save a life," she said.

Mika has since become an ambassador for the American Heart Association and has used her platform to bring cardiovascular health to the attention of young, fit women who may not be aware of the risk. She also founded Goomi, a company that brings on-site fitness classes to offices.

She hopes raising awareness will encourage women to prioritize their health.

"The biggest piece of advice that I have for women is to be sure to take care of ourselves first," she said.

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