Young adventuress blogger opens up about heart event

At 31 years old, travel blogger Liz Carlson had a clean bill of health and an appetite for adventure. Since starting her blog, Young Adventuress, over 10 years ago, Liz has been on some extraordinary journeys, yet on Valentine’s Day 2020, she experienced a heart attack that became the motivation to change her life for the better.

That morning, Liz was on her laptop with her morning coffee, getting ready to start her day, when a feeling of total dread washed over her, building into an intense crushing pain across her chest, neck and shoulders down her arms and even into her jaw. Struggling to breathe, Liz eventually collapsed on the floor from the sheer pain of it all, clutching her armpits and curled up in a ball.

“I tried to pass it off as nothing at first, but my partner forced me to go to the hospital,” she says. “I had even experienced something similar twice before and just put it down to stress.”

It wasn’t until some time later, after spending a week in Christchurch Public Hospital because of an abnormal blood test, that Liz found out she had suffered a minor heart attack. Liz had no risk factors or family history of heart disease and a number of further medical tests came back all clear.

“The doctors concluded that it was possible that a migraine medication I’d been prescribed may have been the problem as it narrows blood vessels,” she says.

Since suffering her heart event just one month before the global Covid-19 pandemic, life looks a little different for Liz these days. Instead of running towards airport gates last minute, Liz has made changes in her everyday habits to reduce stress, such as sleeping more, massage therapy and taking control of her life.

“I feel much calmer now as a person and this is in part down to the relaxation I’ve built into my life after my heart event,” she says. “I’ve also set up my own house plant business called Node, which I run from my standing desk at home.”

Besides living a more relaxed lifestyle, Liz now does regular exercise and goes for walks every day in order to meet the physical activity needs of a young person’s body.

“I’m only 33 and I’ve been through a lot, but I’m always curious to know more about myself and to understand what caused my life to almost end. Only then can I learn to manage how I respond to the challenges I encounter.”

Shortly after her own heart experience, Liz’s stepfather sadly passed away from an unexpected heart attack, and she was devastated that she couldn’t attend his funeral in the US due to Covid-19.

“He was like a father to me, and I really want to get the message out that this type of thing can happen to anyone at any moment,” she says. “Only by taking preventative measures with your lifestyle can you take back control.”

Heart disease is New Zealand’s single biggest killer, claiming the lives of more than 6,700 New Zealanders every year – that’s one person every 90 minutes.

Heart attacks can happen to anyone at any time of their life. Warning signs of a heart attack include chest discomfort, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, and nausea. Women can experience other less obvious symptoms including discomfort in the upper back, nausea, sweating, and unusual fatigue.

Acting quickly and dialling 111 saves lives.