A social studies teacher at North Dallas High School (NDHS) is training for her first triathlon, almost two years after experiencing heart attack symptoms and undergoing heart surgery.
“I was sweating, having heart palpitations and out of breath,” Christina Herrera told HealthDay. “My school nurse said, ‘I have to call an ambulance for you,’ and I said I’d go later. I had to get back to my class. She said, ‘You have to go now.'”
She had been diagnosed with prediabetes and had a family history of diabetes and heart failure. The ER visit revealed three blocked arteries, which led to triple bypass surgery. She also learned that she has type 2 diabetes, which makes her twice as likely to die from heart disease and stroke compared to people without the disease, according to the American Heart Association.
Herrera has a young son. Not long after recovering from surgery, she committed to a healthier lifestyle.
Rey Alvarez and Juanita Cano, her friends and fellow NDHS alumni inspired her to become more active. Herrera began training in October 2018, ran the BMW5K two months later, and completed her first 10K in December. She also changed her diet, avoiding sodas and other foods which aren’t diabetes-friendly.
“I look at food very differently now. I try to be intentional about everything. If I want a soda, I think, ‘Is it worth it? Is it worth seeing my blood sugar level going up?’ It’s not an overnight learning process. It’s an opportunity to re-learn how to look at ourselves and what foods to eat and to make sure I’m touching base with my doctor,” Herrera told HealthDay.
The American Heart Association has chosen Herrera as one of their Know Diabetes by Heart Ambassadors. She’s among a select group of volunteers living with type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The ambassadors share their personal stories in an effort to increase awareness and reduce cardiovascular deaths, heart attacks, cardiovascular disease and strokes in people living with type 2 diabetes.
“If we’re not here, our children are left alone. Our students are left alone,” she told KTVT. “We have to come first.”
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute designates February as American Heart Month. The goal is to raise awareness about heart health and urge those around us to prevent heart disease. ❤