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.

Women's nutrition: Understanding your unique needs

People are often confused by constantly evolving dietary information. One study might suggest that tofu is the healthiest protein, while another declares that salmon is best. The good news is that established nutritional guidelines are far more consistent, and your doctor can always provide trustworthy guidance that is personalized to meet your unique health concerns. The physicians at West Hills Hospital welcome your questions about nutrition and healthy living.

Identifying the nutrients you need
Balance is the cornerstone of a healthy diet. Steer clear of fad diets that offer drastic recommendations, and instead focus on getting a balanced blend of nutrient-dense foods. Every woman needs these nutrients:

  • Complex carbohydrates: From grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes
  • Heart-healthy fats: From nuts, fish and vegetable oils
  • Proteins: From poultry, fish, eggs, lean meats, soy, seeds and beans
  • Vitamins and minerals: From grains, vegetables and fruits

Fish can also give you the vitamins and minerals you need. For instance, halibut contains potassium and salmon has vitamin D.

Fiber is another important part of any diet. It supports digestion, helps you maintain your weight and even reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes. Boost your intake of fiber by eating oatmeal with fruit for breakfast and lentil soup with kale for dinner.

Building a healthy plate
The calories your body needs will change throughout your life, depending on your activity level, pregnancy status and age. Dietitians generally recommend having half of your plate devoted to vegetables and fruits, with smaller portions of whole grains and lean proteins.

Making lifestyle changes effortlessly
You don’t need to change your eating habits overnight. Make small changes gradually for long-term success. Write a list of the eating habits you’d like to change, and then focus on one change at a time.

Your list might look something like this:

  • Avoid using sugar and creamer in coffee
  • Drink water with lunch instead of soda
  • Eat an apple for a snack instead of chips
  • Try one new, heart-healthy recipe per week

Smaller modifications are more easily reachable, and you’re more likely to turn them into lifelong habits.

For all of your healthcare concerns at every stage of life, West Hills Hospital is here for you. We’re committed to providing superior, patient-centered healthcare services because our patients are our neighbors in the West Hills-area communities. Call (818) 676-4321 to get in touch with a registered nurse at our hospital.

What is the role of genetic testing in cancer prevention and treatment?

You’ve probably heard before that DNA is the blueprint for what makes you “you.” Your genes dictate your eye color, hair color and blood type. You can also inherit certain genetic diseases, such as sickle cell disease. And some genetic mutations may predispose you to cancer. Watch this featured video to hear a member of the Cancer Care team at West Hills Hospital explain familial cancer syndrome. It refers to the increased likelihood that multiple members of a family will be affected by one cancer or a group of cancers.

How you can use your genetic testing results
The oncology hematologist in the featured video emphasizes that genetic testing only reveals part of the picture. Having a genetic mutation doesn’t automatically mean that someone will get a certain type of cancer. Similarly, not having the genetic mutation doesn’t mean that a person won’t develop cancer.

Genetic testing can be useful because you can use it to influence your lifestyle choices. Your doctor will help you understand your test results. He or she can discuss the changes you can make in your everyday life to lower your risk of cancer.

How you can reduce your risk of cancer
Making lifestyle changes isn’t a foolproof way to definitively prevent cancer, but they certainly can help reduce the risk. Depending on your current health status and lifestyle, and the results of your genetic testing, your doctor might recommend:

  • Eating a low-fat, low-sugar and high-fiber diet
  • Starting an exercise routine
  • Eliminating alcohol consumption
  • Being careful to avoid secondhand smoke
  • Losing weight
  • Getting frequent health screenings

How genetic testing informs cancer treatment
In recent years, scientists have discovered that the genetic makeup of individual tumors can be used to refine any given patient’s cancer care. Cancer cells have DNA, too, and this DNA is subject to various mutations. By analyzing the mutations of a tumor in a particular patient, an oncologist can recommend therapies that precisely target that exact tumor type.

For example, genetic testing of the tumor may reveal that a cancer is associated with tyrosine kinase. This is an enzyme that supports cell growth. By prescribing drugs that inhibit tyrosine kinase, the oncologist can directly target the tumor more effectively.

Cancer is a frightening diagnosis. At West Hills Hospital, our Cancer Care team will be by your side every step of the way to fight it with you. Call our nurse referral line in West Hills at (818) 676-4321.

Managing the unique stresses of being a parent

If you’re a parent who is coping with the pressure of being pulled in all directions, then you’re not alone. Parents have a unique kind of stress that people without children can’t experience. You don’t have to suffer in silence, however. Help is available from your physician and many other community resources so you can learn to manage your stress while enjoying your family. Consider this advice as you look for new ways to conquer the pressure of parenthood.

Do fun things as a family
For parents, the demands of making sure day-to-day tasks, like homework and practices, can become all encompassing. Resist getting so distracted by everything that your kids have to accomplish that you forget to enjoy each other.

Carve out some time each week to have fun together as a family, and keep all of the other stressors off the table for that time. Instead of worrying about report cards and tests, spend an hour playing a game together or go see a movie. It will improve everyone’s relationships and take some of the stress off your shoulders.

Rely on your support systems
Make sure of the support systems you have available to you, whether it is your own parents who are willing to take the kids for a few hours or a playgroup that gives you a chance to vent to other parents. Using these resources gives you time to look after yourself.

If you don’t think you have a support system, build one. Look for parenting groups in your areas or ask a friend to help out with some babysitting.

Get professional help
Talk to your physician if you are feeling overwhelmed. He or she may refer you to a specialist or suggest medications that can help you overcome anxiety or depression. Your physician’s help could be the support you need to feel like you are in control again.

If you need a referral to a physician, call West Hills Hospital & Medical Center. You can reach the Consult-a-Nurse line at our hospital in West Hills by calling (818) 676-4321.

Facts you didn't know about breast milk

Breast is best for babies, but what is it about breast milk that makes it so unique? For starters, every breastfeeding mother produces her own unique blend, which even has its own unique smell that infants know how to identify. You can give your baby the gift of good health with help from the dedicated maternity team at West Hills Hospital.

Breast milk cannot be synthetically produced
It isn’t possible for formula to duplicate the composition of breast milk. One reason for this is its ever-changing nature.

The first milk your body produces after giving birth is called colostrum, which is exceptionally high in protein and antibodies. Compared to later breast milk, colostrum is much lower in sugars and fats, since newborns don’t need as much of these. Your body knows how to release only tiny amounts of colostrum at a time, since that’s all newborns can handle.

Even after your mature milk comes in, it will constantly change its composition. At the start of each feeding session, breast milk has a watery consistency. Toward the end, it becomes thicker and fattier.

Breast milk changes throughout the day, as well, and no two mothers will have exactly the same composition of breast milk. Breast milk changes as your baby grows older to meet his or her evolving nutritional needs. It can even change in response to a baby’s illness.

Breast milk has a calming effect
The idea that breast milk can help infants sleep better isn’t just an old wives’ tale. It really does contain substances that calm down babies and encourage sleep—but only later in the day. Breast milk produced in the morning has less of a soporific effect.

This is why some doctors may recommend labeling expressed and stored breast milk with the time of day it was expressed. Breast milk that was expressed in the evening should ideally be fed to the baby in the evening.

Breastfed babies are better eaters as toddlers
Formula has the same, bland taste for babies. Breast milk has subtle flavors of what the nursing mother eats. This means breastfed babies are less likely to be picky eaters as they transition to solid foods.

Families in the West Hills area have long turned to West Hills Hospital for superior, family-centered maternity care. Our Postpartum Services include breastfeeding lessons given by certified lactation consultants. Call a registered nurse at (818) 676-4321 with your questions about our exceptional maternity care.

Stay afloat with these swim safety tips

Summer isn’t summer without swimming, but days at the beach or pool don’t come without risks. Each day in the US, approximately 10 people die in accidental drownings, and for kids between ages one and four, it is the leading cause of unintentional injury death. Of people who seek emergency care after a near drowning, over 50% require a lengthy hospital stay or long-term care. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to ensure that summer fun doesn’t end in tragedy for you or your loved ones. Keep these safety tips in mind on your next swimming outing.

Learn to swim
Learning to swim by taking swim classes gives kids and adults the tools they need to practice safety in the water and to react swiftly in the case of an emergency. Even babies can get in the water and practice the basics of swimming.

If you haven’t learned to swim, keep in mind that it’s never too late. There are plenty of swimming classes available for people of all ages, so take the important step of learning basics swimming skills.

Supervise children when they swim
Children need to be constantly supervised while they swim. Do not rely on lifeguards or flotation devices to keep your children safe in the water. Children can drown in just a few seconds, so watch them carefully.

If you are with a group, make sure one adult is always specifically in charge of watching the children. In a group, it is easy for parents to all think someone else is supervising, when in reality, no one is paying close attention.

Avoid swimming alone
Swimming calls for the buddy system. Even if you are an experienced swimmer, it is important to have someone who can help if an emergency occurs. Whenever possible, choose to swim in an area with lifeguards.

Whatever your summertime emergency, West Hills Hospital & Medical Center is here to provide the emergency care you need. Our hospital in West Hills is available 24 hours per day for all of your family’s emergency needs. To learn more about our services, please call (818) 676-4321.

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