West Hills Hospital & Medical Center
West Hills Hospital & Medical Center is your community resource for better health. We have the capability and expertise to perform emergency open heart procedures, perform brain and spine surgery.

Do you know about these common stress indicators?

If stress were an infectious disease, it would probably be considered at pandemic proportions. Stress isn’t necessarily harmful in small doses, but severe, unrelenting stress can result in serious consequences for your physical, emotional and mental health. If you’re having trouble coping, or if you’re experiencing unusual physical symptoms, the doctors and nurses at West Hills Hospital are here to help.

Behavioral changes
Stress can influence the day-to-day decisions you make. When you’re feeling the pressure, you might:

  • Skip exercising
  • Eat sugary or fatty foods
  • Consume alcohol
  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Use illicit, recreational substances

These behavioral issues might temporarily help you feel better, but in the long run, they’ll make the situation worse.

Mood changes
It’s common for chronic stress to cause anxiety. But some people experience mood changes that seem unrelated. Stress can lead a person to:

  • Become excessively irritable at a minor inconvenience
  • Have a burst of anger
  • Think or act in a hostile or aggressive manner

Cognitive issues
Stress can even affect a person’s ability to work or study productively. It may take longer to complete work, given that stress can cause:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble learning new information
  • Forgetfulness
  • Disorganization
  • Confusion
  • Poor motivation
  • Problems making decisions and exercising judgment

Physical symptoms
Many people with chronic stress experience unusual physical symptoms that can’t be attributed to any other cause. Stress often results in gastrointestinal symptoms, like indigestion, upset stomach or diarrhea. Stress-related dietary changes can make these gastrointestinal symptoms worse.

Other physical signs and symptoms can include:

  • General aches and pains
  • Headache
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid heartbeat/heart palpitations
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle tension
  • Neck or back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Increased frequency of illnesses

Although stress and anxiety can cause chest pain and heart palpitations, these symptoms may also indicate a life-threatening medical emergency. If there’s even a slight possibility that you may be experiencing a heart attack, please seek emergency care without delay.

No matter what health challenges you’re facing in life, we’re here for you. West Hills Hospital is staffed by providers who genuinely care about improving your quality of life. Call our nurse referral line at (818) 676-4321 for general information about our medical services available in West Hills.

What to do after sexual assault

There are many types of sexual assault, including rape, forcible sodomy and any unwanted or coerced sexual contact, such as groping. After surviving an act of sexual violence, victims often feel shaken and stunned, and unsure of what to do next. Even if you aren’t sure whether you’ll report the crime, you’re urged to seek emergency care at West Hills Hospital. Our compassionate doctors and nurses will give you the care and support you need within a confidential setting.

Getting to a safe place
Your safety is of the utmost importance. After a sexual assault, your top priority is to get away from your attacker. Go to the nearest public place.

You can call 911 for immediate assistance, and to improve the chances that law enforcement will be able to locate your attacker. If you don’t feel comfortable reporting the crime just yet, call a trusted friend or family member, and ask to be taken to the hospital.

Seeking medical care
Let the triage nurse know that you’ve been assaulted. He or she may be able to take you to a private place to wait for a doctor, away from the main ER waiting room.

In addition to receiving treatment for your physical injuries, you can request a sexual assault forensic exam. This exam collects and preserves evidence of the assault.

Victims are strongly encouraged to have this exam as soon as possible after being assaulted, as evidence degrades over time and is affected by activities like washing up. You are not automatically required to report the crime if you have the forensic exam. It’s perfectly alright to take the time to think about your next step.

Recovering from physical and emotional trauma
The physical injuries of sexual violence heal far more quickly than the emotional trauma. Follow the emergency care doctor’s discharge instructions, and make a follow up appointment with your primary care physician.

The process of emotional recovery is different for every survivor. Try to be kind to yourself, and try to confide in a trusted family member or friend. Consider asking your doctor for a referral to a mental health counselor or local support group.

The emergency care team at West Hills Hospital provides a safe setting for sexual assault victims to receive the medical care and support services they need. If you believe your safety is at risk, please call 911 to request immediate police assistance. Otherwise, you can come to our Emergency Room in West Hills, or call a registered nurse any time of the day or night at (818) 676-4321.

Can you treat IBS at home?

Irritable bowel syndrome is painful and uncomfortable, but fortunately, it doesn’t result in any permanent damage. When you speak with your doctor, let him or her know how long you’ve had symptoms and how severe they are. IBS typically causes abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. The gastroenterology team at West Hills Hospital can develop an IBS management plan that you can follow at home.

Making changes to your diet
Certain foods can make your symptoms worse. Your gastroenterologist may ask you to keep a food diary and a symptom log to determine which foods are your triggers. If you need to follow dietary restrictions, consider speaking with a registered dietician to ensure your meal plan still has all the necessary nutrients.

Some of the most common IBS triggers include:

  • Fatty foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Legumes
  • Dairy products
  • Sweetening agents
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine

Managing diarrhea
Chronic diarrhea causes dehydration, so it’s important to sip water throughout the day. Eating the following foods may help:

  • Bananas
  • White rice
  • Peeled, mashed potatoes
  • Baked or broiled chicken
  • Chicken broth

Vegetables are an essential part of your diet. To reduce the possibility of vegetables triggering your symptoms, you should peel them, remove the seeds and cook them.

Managing constipation
Your gastroenterologist may recommend that you take a fiber supplement or stool softener. You can also include the following foods in your diet to help stimulate bowel movement.

  • Prune juice
  • Dried fruit (like dried apricots)
  • Vegetables
  • Beans
  • Whole grain cereals and breads

Drink plenty of water to help ease constipation.

Reducing gas and bloating
Your food diary can help you identify foods that trigger gas and bloating. These commonly include:

  • Beans
  • Dairy products
  • Beverages with fructose or sorbitol

Your doctor may recommend taking an over-the-counter gas remedy. If the problem is caused by dairy products, you can switch to dairy-free alternatives or take a lactase enzyme product when eating dairy.

Gastroenterological disorders like IBS are one of our specialties here at West Hills Hospital . We provide the compassionate, individualized care you need to support your health. Call our hospital in West Hills at (818) 676-4321 for general information.

What happens in the lab? Common medical tests

A diagnosis can’t always be made solely by reviewing symptoms and doing a physical exam. Emergency care doctors may request certain lab tests to check for problems like infections. Primary care doctors may also request lab tests or medical images, either for screening or diagnostic purposes. Watch the accompanying video to hear the Director of Women’s Diagnostics at West Hills Hospital talk about one common screening and diagnostic exam used to check for breast abnormalities.

Complete blood count
A CBC is a comprehensive blood test that may be requested in the Emergency Room or in a primary care setting. This test measures many aspects of a patient’s blood, including the following:

  • Red blood cells
  • White blood cells
  • Platelets
  • Hemoglobin
  • Hematocrit

A CBC can be used to diagnose many different problems, including:

  • Anemia
  • Immune system diseases
  • Blood cancers
  • Infections

Metabolic panel
A metabolic panel refers to a group of tests that let doctors evaluate the body’s metabolism and chemical balance. A basic metabolic panel checks a patient’s calcium, blood glucose, kidney function and electrolytes. A complete metabolic panel tests everything that the BMP does, in addition to the patient’s protein levels, liver function and cholesterol.

Influenza test
If you visit the Emergency Room because of flu-like symptoms, your healthcare provider may ask you to have an influenza test. Usually, the test is performed by swabbing the throat or nose with a sterile swab. The sample of cells is sent to the lab for analysis.

Bacteria cultures
Bacteria culture tests allow doctors to identify whether a patient has a certain infection. This group of tests may require a sample of blood, urine or skin to test in the lab.

A throat culture, for example, checks for strep throat. A sputum culture evaluates mucus from the lungs for signs of respiratory infections like bacterial pneumonia or bronchitis.

West Hills Hospital is a modern, state-of-the-art healthcare facility that offers a complete range of diagnostic services. Delivering exceptional, patient-focused care matters to us because our doctors and nurses live and work in the same West Hills community as your family. Call a registered nurse at (818) 676-4321 to request a physician referral.

What you need to understand about your blood pressure

Each time you visit the hospital, the doctor or nurse will check your blood pressure. Recording your blood pressure at each medical appointment allows your doctor to evaluate the changes in your blood pressure over time. It’s normal for blood pressure to fluctuate slightly throughout the day, but substantial changes can be cause for concern. If you have any questions about your cardiovascular health, the providers at West Hills Hospital are here to help.

Blood pressure basics

Your blood pressure is the force exerted against the blood vessel walls as blood flows through them. Be a proactive patient, and ask your healthcare provider if your blood pressure readings are within the normal range.

  • Normal: Less than 120 over 80
  • Elevated: 120 to 129 over less than 80
  • Stage one hypertension: 130 to 139 over 80 to 89
  • Stage two hypertension: 140 or higher over 90 or higher

If your blood pressure isn’t ideal, your doctor can help you learn how to manage it.

Blood pressure fluctuations

When you watch the accompanying video, you’ll hear an internal medicine specialist at West Hills Hospital discuss the risks of significant fluctuations in blood pressure. Irregular blood pressure can be difficult to diagnose, since you may have periods of normal blood pressure, followed by wild fluctuations.

Unfortunately, irregular blood pressure can cause damage to the blood vessels. When the blood pressure drops, blood clots are more likely to form. This increases the risk of stroke.

Chronic high blood pressure

Chronic high blood pressure, without major fluctuations, is also dangerous for your health. When it’s left untreated, it can cause damage to your blood vessels and heart. Since hypertension doesn’t have symptoms, you won’t know that you have it unless you see your doctor.

Over time, chronic high blood pressure can increase the risk of:

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Aneurysm
  • Heart failure
  • Vision loss
  • Kidney problems

The good news is that you can successfully manage your blood pressure with help from your doctor.

West Hills Regional Heart & Vascular Institute is among the top 10 percent of hospitals in the U.S. regarding response times for heart attack patients. Please call 911 right away if you need emergency care for a possible cardiovascular event. Or, to request a physician referral, you can call West Hills Hospital at (818) 676-4321.

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