TSTC Vocational Nursing students Chrystal Thomspon (left) and Amy Zavala are learning ways to help patients suffering from a heart condition. February is annually observed as American Heart Month.

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – The key to healthy living begins with a person’s heart.

Each February is proclaimed American Heart Month by the president to raise awareness about the importance of having a healthy heart. Texas State Technical College Vocational Nursing students are learning how to help someone facing a heart incident and the ways that people can prevent heart disease.

“One of the first things you should do is eat healthy,” said Chrystal Thompson, a first-semester student from Abilene. “You should have plenty of vegetables and fruits in your diet.”

Thompson said everyone should read the nutritional fact labels on food packages to help reduce the consumption of added sugars and saturated fats.

Amy Zavala, a first-semester student from Ballinger, said another way to have a healthy heart is through proper exercise.

“You should maintain a great exercise program because that will help prevent disease,” she said. “The more you move, the better you will be physically and mentally.”

The American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.

While staying active, people should also watch their weight and body mass index.

“Everyone should maintain a healthy weight,” Thompson said.

The American Heart Association also recommends not using tobacco or vaping products. 

Another way to prevent heart disease is to take medication prescribed by doctors. People with high blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar are at greater risk of having heart disease, according to the association.

Both students said they know they will be prepared to help someone who is facing a heart incident, including performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

“If you see someone in need, please help them,” Zavala said. “I know that my adrenaline will kick in if I see someone in need. I would begin CPR immediately.”

However, if a person does not know CPR, Thompson said a phone call is the first response.

“Call 911 immediately so the medical professional can help that person,” she said.

Joni Coons, the leadership coach for TSTC Residence Life and Engagement, offers CPR training for the community. She said knowing CPR can save a person’s life.

“How to perform CPR properly is one of the most important things a person should know,” Coons said. “I want everyone to be able to help someone in need if they see a person in distress. That is why I continue to provide this training for our community at TSTC.”

If a local business or organization would like to schedule CPR training with Coons, they can call 325-235-7418.

TSTC’s Vocational Nursing certificate program is also available at the Breckenridge and Harlingen campuses. Upon completion of the program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination, graduates are classified as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs).

According to onetonline.org, LVN jobs were forecast to increase 17% in Texas between 2020 and 2030. The median annual salary for LVNs in Texas is $48,520, the website showed.

TSTC also offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Nursing at the Harlingen and Sweetwater campuses.

For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

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