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.

What to expect from your first cardiologist visit

If you have been referred to a cardiologist, you likely have many questions about what to expect during your appointment. As explained in the video, there are a multitude of reasons people may see a cardiologist, from high cholesterol to symptoms of a heart arrhythmia, and some of the parts of your appointment will depend on the reason for your appointment. Here is a closer look at some of the things that happen during most first-time cardiology visits.

Medical history review
Your cardiologist will want to review your medical history with you, particularly as it pertains to your heart health. This information can give your physician clues about the symptoms you are experiencing and what the cause may be.

You can help your appointment go smoothly by making sure you know this information:

  • Your current medications and their dosages, including over-the-counter medicines

  • Chronic health conditions for which you are being treated and when you were diagnosed

  • Your personal history of heart health issues—for instance, if you’ve had a heart attack or stroke

  • Family members who have heart disease and who have died of heart disease. It can also be helpful to know the ages at which these family members passed away.

Symptom review
Be prepared to discuss your symptoms in detail with your cardiologist. Be as thorough as possible so that your physician has all of the information necessary to make a decision about your condition.

Before your appointment, it can helpful to write out information about your symptoms, including:

  • When you experience your symptoms

  • What you are doing when they occur

  • When they started

  • How they impact your normal activities

Physical and diagnostic exam
Your cardiologist will perform a physical exam and then may perform one or more diagnostic tests. Some of the tests that he or she may use are:

  • Stress test
  • Echocardiogram
  • Imaging tests

He or she may also ask you to wear a heart monitor for a set period of time to track what your heart does throughout the course of the day.

At the West Hills Regional Heart & Vascular Institute , our cardiologists offer specialized care for a wide range of heart conditions. We provide invasive and non-invasive treatments and diagnostics in our nationally recognized department. Call West Hills Hospital & Medical Center in West Hills today at (818) 676-4321 for a referral.

What exactly are congenital heart defects?

Congenital heart defects include a range of structural problems that can have minor or complex effects. For patients with congenital heart defects, early diagnosis and treatment can help to prevent complications, while long-term cardiac care may be needed in other cases. What exactly are these defects, and how are they treated? Here is what you need to know.

Congenital heart defects 101
Congenital heart defects are defects in the structure of the heart that are present at birth. About eight in 1,000 newborns have a congenital heart defect, and over 1 million adults in the US are living with this kind of heart defect.

There are many different kinds of congenital heart defects, including these common types:

  • Septum defect (hole in the heart)

  • Narrowed valves

  • Tetralogy of Fallot

  • Patent ductus arteriosus

Although heredity may play a role, the cause of many congenital heart defects is not known.

In some cases, congenital heart defects don’t cause any symptoms, particularly if they are mild. In other cases, these symptoms may occur:

  • Cyanosis—blue-tinged skin, fingernails, and lips

  • Rapid breathing

  • Fatigue with light physical activity

  • Swelling of the ankles, legs, and abdomen

In most cases, doctors diagnose severe heart defects soon after birth, because the symptoms are obvious. With a mild defect, a diagnosis may not be made until later in life.

Treatments for congenital heart defects depend on the type of defect. For simple defects that are not causing any symptoms, no treatment at all may be necessary, and instead, physicians may monitor the condition.

For complex congenital heart defects, there are a number of different treatments available, including surgery, catheter procedures, and medication. In some cases, multiple surgeries over the course of several years may be necessary. In very rare circumstances, babies born with multiple congenital defects may need a heart transplant.

The West Hills Regional Heart & Vascular Institute at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center offers nationally accredited cardiac care around the clock, while our world-class NICU provides the specialized care babies born with congenital defects may need. To get answers to your questions about our cardiac care services in West Hills, please call (818) 676-4321.

How to prepare for labor and delivery

Labor and delivery are thrilling—and often a little scary—for moms-to-be. Getting prepared for the day you give birth is a good first step in having the most positive experience possible. As your due date approaches, here are some things you can do to ensure that you are as prepared for labor and delivery as possible.

Get educated
Finding out as much as you can about the process of labor and delivery will help you feel more confident and empowered to make decisions about what is right for you. At your obstetrics appointments, bring lists of questions you want to ask and look into classes for expecting mothers at your birthing center.

Be wary about information you get from friends or from internet surfing. Friends often tend to highlight any negative parts of their labor experiences, which could make you more anxious. Surfing the internet could lead you to incorrect information or information that is not relevant to your situation.

Tour the birthing center
Seeing the birthing center can alleviate many of your concerns about what to expect. Many birthing centers offer tours so women and their families can see where labor and delivery happens and get comfortable with the space. Tours also provide a chance to ask questions of the healthcare team.

These tours can be especially helpful for women who are anxious about the idea of being in a hospital. Birthing centers are positive, cheerful places, and are much different than what many people envision when they think of hospital settings. Seeing this in person may put your mind at ease.

Create a birth plan
Work with your physician to create a plan for your birth that works for you. By creating this plan, you will get a chance to tell your physician what is important for you during your labor and delivery, and your physician will be able to explain what is and isn’t possible for you based on your medical needs.

New Beginnings Maternal and Newborn Care program at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center provides a nurturing environment for new moms and their newborns throughout labor, delivery, and aftercare. Request a tour, learn more about our maternity care in West Hills , or get a referral to a provider by calling (818) 676-4321.

Reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning at home

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a dangerous condition that turns deadly for hundreds of families each year. The risk of poisoning goes up during the winter months, thanks to the use of space heaters and portable generators. By knowing the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning and taking steps to reduce the risk of it happening in your home, you can prevent the need for emergency care and maybe even save lives. Here are some things you can do to keep your family safe.

Know the signs
Recognizing the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning can help you take fast action to get the emergency care needed. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can easily be confused with other conditions, but it is always best to err on the side of caution and get checked out if you have these symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Chest pain

If more than one family member is exhibiting these symptoms, it’s more likely to be caused by carbon monoxide poisoning than if only one member of your family is feeling sick. This could indicate the presence of carbon monoxide in your home.

Get a detector
Just as a smoke alarm can save you during a fire, a carbon monoxide alarm can save you when this dangerous gas is present. There should be alarms on each level of your house, particularly near bedrooms.

Because carbon monoxide is invisible and odorless, you won’t know it is there unless an alarm tells you. Your alarm can give the early warning you need to prevent symptoms from developing.

Be cautious with potential carbon monoxide sources
If you have gas appliances in your home, make sure trained professionals regularly service them. Never use portable, flameless chemical heaters or charcoal grills indoors. Use the extractor vent when you are using a gas stove.

If you have a fireplace, have the chimney cleaned annually, and make sure the flues are open any time you start a fire.

West Hills Hospital and Medical Center provides emergency care 24 hours per day, seven days per week, for all of your urgent medical needs. You can learn more about our emergency room and all of our hospital services in West Hills by calling (818) 676-4321.

Knowing when to schedule important women's health screenings

Preventive health screenings are an essential part of an overall wellness plan for women. Although your personal health history will dictate when and how often you need certain screening tests, there are some general guidelines to help you understand what kind of schedule you should follow. Here is a look at some screenings that most women can benefit from having and the recommended timeline for having them. Be sure to consult with your own women’s health specialist to make the right decisions for your needs.

Mammograms are X-ray screenings of your breast tissue. They are performed to look for abnormal changes that could indicate the presence of cancerous or precancerous cells. Mammograms, along with clinical breast exams, play a central role in preventive care for breast cancer.

Most women should begin having mammograms between ages 40 and 50 every one to two years. However, if you have a personal or family history of breast cancer or other risk factors, your physician may recommend that you begin your screenings earlier or that you have them more often.

Pap tests and HPV screenings
These tests are usually done in conjunction with each other during well woman gynecological exams. Pap tests look for signs of cervical cancer, while HPV screenings are used to help women understand their risk of cervical cancer.

These tests should usually begin by age 21. Between the ages of 21 and 29, women should have a Pap test every three years. Between 30 and 65, women should have a Pap and HPV test every five years or a Pap test only every three years. More frequent testing is usually not recommended for women unless they have an elevated risk of cervical cancer.

A colonoscopy is performed to spot signs of colorectal cancers. During a colonoscopy, polyps that are in the colon may also be removed so that they do not become cancerous.

Women usually start having colonoscopies at age 50. The time between tests depends on your family history. You may also need earlier screening of colorectal cancer runs in your family.

As explained in the video, scheduling an appointment for women’s health services in West Hills is easy. Call West Hills Hospital and Medical Center today at (818) 676-4321 to get a referral to the right specialist for your needs.

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