• Risk factors for sudden cardiac arrest

    Sudden cardiac arrest, also called SCA, occurs when there is a malfunction in the electrical system of the heart. This causes a sudden loss of heart function. If emergency care is not given immediately, loss of life can occur in minutes. Although there are not usually any signs of SCA before it occurs, knowing your risk factors can help you take steps to prevent if from happening to you. Here is a closer look at some of the risk factors for SCA.

    Arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats, are common triggers for SCA. Not every kind of arrhythmia is considered to be a significant contributor to SCA risks, but if you have ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, or severe bradycardia, your heart doctor may discuss treatment options such as an implanted defibrillator with you.

    Arrhythmias that increase the risk of SCA are called life-threatening arrhythmias. A cardiologist should closely monitor them.

    Heart tissue scarring
    Scarring of the heart tissue can happen for many different reasons, however, most people experience it after surviving a heart attack. The longer the heart attack proceeded without treatment, the more tissue is likely to be scarred.

    Heart tissue scarring often causes life-threatening arrhythmias, which in turn can cause SCA. The first six months after a heart attack are especially high risk for SCA caused by heart issue scarring.

    It may seem counterintuitive for medications that are used to treat arrhythmias to cause them, but that is exactly what happens in some cases. Anti-arrhythmic medications sometimes cause ventricular arrhythmias that increase the risk of SCA.

    Other medications can boost the risk of SCA as well, including diuretics, which can cause a change in levels of potassium and magnesium that are necessary to maintain heart function.

    The West Hills Regional Heart & Vascular Institute is committed to improving heart health in the West Hills community. We offer comprehensive heart care for a wide range of cardiac issues, plus specialized critical and emergency care. Get a referral to a heart health specialist by calling West Hills Hospital & Medical Center at (818) 676-4321.

  • Should you consider joining a clinical trial for your breast cancer treatment?

    If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, there are many different treatment options that your care team will discuss with you, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Another option for patients is taking part in a clinical trial. Clinical trials can be a way to benefit from new breast cancer treatments before they enter the market, plus, they allow people with breast cancer to be part of the process of research for a disease cure. Could a clinical trial make sense as part of your cancer treatment plan? Here is what you need to know.

    What is a clinical trial?
    During a clinical trial, new drug is tested on patients to determine its safety, effectiveness, and side effects. Once drugs reach the stage of human clinical trials, they have undergone a long process of testing in the lab setting and are considered to be safe enough for humans to take while they are being monitored.

    Clinical trials happen in four phases:

    • Phase I: Done to test the safety of different doses of a drug
    • Phase II: Done to test the effectiveness of a drug
    • Phase III: Done to compare the effectiveness of a new drug versus the current standard of care
    • Phase IV: Done to determine the side effects of long-term treatment with a new drug

    Who is eligible?
    Every clinical trial has its own set of eligibility criteria. There are usually clinical trials open to people who are currently getting treatment for breast cancer and people who had breast cancer in the past and are in remission.

    Even if you are eligible for a trial, you should consult with your cancer care team to see if it is appropriate for your needs. If you have breast cancer, you can rest assured that you will not receive a placebo during a clinical trial. You will receive either the drug being tested or your current treatment.

    What are the benefits?
    Clinical trials give you access to medications that are not currently available but that could be effective in treating your cancer. This can be especially beneficial if your current treatment plan is not as effective as you had hoped.

    The cancer care team at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center can explain the pros and cons of clinical trials to breast cancer patients and connect you with current trials for which you may be eligible. Contact our hospital in West Hills at (818) 676-4321.

  • What are some of the most common prescription drug side effects?

    Prescription drugs are necessary to control everything from acute bacterial infections to chronic diseases. However, while these drugs are essential to managing symptoms, they frequently cause side effects of their own. If the side effects of the prescription drugs that you take are so intense that you wonder if the illness or the cure is worse, talk to your physician about alternative treatments and strategies for managing the negative impacts. Here is a look at some of the most common side effects that people experience when they take prescription drugs.

    Fatigue is extremely common with prescription medications. Some fatigue symptoms are caused by ingredients in the medications themselves, while in other instances, fatigue is a sign that the immune systems is working in conjunction with the drug to fight the illness.

    Some medications are labeled to alert patients that they may cause fatigue, but even without such a label, fatigue can occur. If your medications are causing fatigue extreme enough to interfere with your activities, call your provider or pharmacist for advice.

    Prescription medications frequently cause nausea. For some people, the nausea occurs soon after taking a dose. Other people experience an increase in stomach sensitivity on a prolonged basis. Often, changing the time you take the medication in question or taking it with food can help.

    Dizziness is a scary side effect that happens with prescription drugs. Because this symptom can make it dangerous to drive or do other everyday activities, it’s important to report it to your physician right away.

    On National Check Your Meds Day on October 21, your pharmacist can review your medications and make recommendations about everything from managing costs to managing side effects, which you can then discuss with your physician at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center. Learn more about our hospital in West Hills, or get a referral to a physician who can help you better manage your prescription drugs by calling (818) 676-4321.

  • What is metastatic breast cancer?

    Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. It is also sometimes called stage IV breast cancer. Patients with metastatic breast cancer need systemic treatments that don’t just target the site of the original tumor in the breast. Although there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, treatments can improve your quality of life and delay the progression of the disease.

    Where does the cancer spread with metastatic breast cancer?
    Breast cancer that metastasizes can spread anywhere in the body. However, it is most likely to go to a few specific locations. These include:

    • Brain
    • Bones
    • Liver
    • Lungs

    The cancer spreads to these organs when cells break off from the original tumor and then move though the body in the blood or through the lymphatic system. No matter where the new site of the cancer is, the cells that make up that tumor will be breast cells. Sometimes, this process happens during the course of treating the disease after your initial diagnosis. In other cases, metastatic breast cancer appears later, after your initial breast cancer was treated.

    What are the symptoms of metastatic breast cancer?
    The symptoms vary depending on the location of the new cancer. In some cases, there are no symptoms at all. When symptoms are present, they may include:

    • Bone pain
    • Shortness of breath
    • Cough
    • Weight loss
    • Fatigue

    In some cases, metastatic breast cancer is only diagnosed after a PET scan done for preventive care purposes discovers it.

    What treatments are available?
    Multiple treatments are used for metastatic breast cancer, including chemotherapy, radiation, and targeted therapy. Surgery is also sometimes recommended. Most people with metastatic breast cancer use a combination of treatments.

    The treatments are not generally able to completely get rid of the cancer, but they can slow down the progression of the disease.

    The women’s diagnostics and cancer teams at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center help patients at every stage of their battles with breast cancer, from diagnosis to treatment and recovery. Learn more about our cutting edge treatments and multidisciplinary cancer care in West Hills by calling (818) 676-4321.

  • How sports can benefit your child

    Whether it’s a traditional youth sport like soccer or baseball, or a less conventional choice like fencing or curling, there’s no question that sports are beneficial for kids. However, there can also be some health and safety concerns. Schedule a pre-participation physical exam for your child before he or she joins a sports team. You’ll find comprehensive, patient-centered care for your whole family at West Hills Hospital.

    Sports reduce the risk of childhood obesity
    Sports are a much healthier alternative to sedentary activities like video games and television. Many kids don’t get enough exercise. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture , children and teens ages six through 17 should get one hour or more of physical activity each day.

    Exercising regularly helps prevent childhood obesity. This supports your child’s health now and throughout his or her lifetime. By maintaining a healthy weight, your child can reduce his or her risk of chronic diseases, such as:

    • Type 2 diabetes
    • Heart disease
    • Certain cancers

    Exercise also supports healthy bone development, reducing the risk of osteoporosis later in life.

    Sports support children’s socio-emotional health
    Humans aren’t born with social skills. Children learn these skills as they grow, and sports help kids acquire them. Sports support the development of:

    • Leadership skills
    • Sportsmanship
    • Cooperation
    • Teamwork
    • Communication
    • Problem solving

    Sports can also help kids develop emotional resiliency. They gain confidence and self-esteem by working with teammates to achieve a common goal. Kids also learn that it’s okay to fail sometimes, and that what truly matters is the ability to get back up on one’s feet and try again.

    Sports participation supports academic success
    Most kids probably aren’t trying to solve math problems while scoring goals on the field, but participating in sports does indeed support academic achievement. Sports teach kids the value of dedication, hard work and time management, and these are invaluable skills they can apply to their studies.

    Accidents happen from time to time, even after taking precautions like giving your kids protective equipment for their sports activities. If your child suffers a sports injury, the emergency care physicians and nurses at West Hills Hospital are always here to help. For non-emergent questions, call a registered nurse in West Hills at (818) 676-4321.

  • Understanding the basics of hepatitis

    Hepatitis is a viral infection that affects the liver. There are five different viruses that cause various forms of hepatitis. They are: Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. Some forms of hepatitis are quite serious, and may lead to life-threatening complications. Consider talking to a doctor at West Hills Hospital about whether you should get screened for hepatitis.

    Signs and symptoms of hepatitis
    The symptoms of hepatitis may not develop right away after exposure. It’s also possible to have hepatitis and not experience any symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may include:

    • Dark yellow urine
    • Persistent fatigue
    • Fever
    • Gray or clay-colored stools
    • Joint pain
    • Loss of appetite
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Abdominal pain
    • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)

    Methods of transmission of hepatitis
    The hepatitis viruses can be transmitted a number of different ways. Knowing the method of transmission can help people take steps to protect their health. Doctors also recommend getting vaccines to guard against hepatitis A and B.

    Hepatitis A is transmitted through contact with contaminated food or water. People can also contract the virus with close personal contact, such as serving as a caregiver to an infected person or having sex with an infected person.

    Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with infected bodily fluids, including blood and semen. Hepatitis B can spread from a mother to her newborn, between sexual partners, by sharing infected needles or by having contact with the open wound of an infected person.

    Hepatitis C and D are also spread through contact with infected bodily fluids. However, a person can only contract hepatitis D if he or she has also had a hepatitis B infection.

    Hepatitis E spreads through contaminated food and water.

    Patients with hepatitis, and those who may have been exposed to a hepatitis virus, will find comprehensive and compassionate care at West Hills Hospital . Our skilled doctors and nurses are committed to providing world-class medical care because the health of our West Hills community is important to us. Call a registered nurse at (818) 676-4321 if you would like information about our specialty services.

  • What causes pain from arthritis?

    Arthritis is an umbrella term for more than 100 different diseases and related conditions. It’s quite common, and the chronic pain can be debilitating for some patients. Although conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis aren’t curable, they can be effectively managed with help from the orthopedic specialists at West Hills Hospital—a renowned spine hospital.

    How osteoarthritis causes pain
    Your joints have a protective cushion of cartilage that prevents the ends of the two bones from rubbing together when you move. But if you have osteoarthritis, often called wear and tear arthritis, this cartilage starts to break down. Eventually, the cartilage may be so damaged and worn away that the bones do start to rub together.

    The loss of the protective cartilage can cause considerable pain. People with osteoarthritis feel more pain during activity and less while at rest. Osteoarthritis most often affects these joints :

    • Knees
    • Hips
    • Hands

    How rheumatoid arthritis causes pain
    Rheumatoid arthritis is quite different from osteoarthritis. It’s an autoimmune disease, in which the body’s own immune system is tricked into attacking healthy tissue. The joint pain of RA occurs when the immune system attacks the synovial membrane, which is the lining of the joints.

    The attack of the synovial membrane causes painful swelling. Over time, RA can result in joint deformity and bone erosion.

    In many cases, RA can also cause the immune system to attack other areas of the body, including the lungs, heart, salivary glands and eyes. When this occurs, the symptoms aren’t strictly localized to the affected joints.

    How gout causes pain
    Gout causes acute episodes of intense pain. Usually, it affects the base of the big toe. The pain and inflammation of gout occur when urate crystals build up in the affected joint.

    Urate crystals are formed from uric acid, which in turn is produced by the metabolism of purines. Purines are a substance found naturally in the body. They’re also present in many foods, like seafood and steak.

    If the body has trouble getting rid of excessive amounts of purines, uric acid levels can increase, potentially causing urate crystals to accumulate. These crystals are sharp, and can cause inflammation, swelling and pain when they settle into tissues.

    The Total Joint Team at West Hills Hospital is on a mission to help each of our patients live life well despite their arthritis. Our highly trained team includes board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons, who can guide you in making an informed decision for your healthcare. Residents in the West Hills area can get in touch with a registered nurse by calling (818) 676-4321.

  • What you need to know about cholesterol and stroke

    Hundreds of thousands of Americans suffer from a stroke each year. Many of them don’t survive or develop long-term disabilities, and strokes are often preventable. Consider talking to a physician at West Hills Hospital about your risk of stroke. Your doctor may recommend having a cholesterol test. Remember that if you do experience any possible symptoms of stroke, you should call 911 immediately to request emergency care.

    How stroke occurs
    There are two primary categories of stroke: Ischemic and hemorrhagic. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel leaks and bleeds on the brain. Ischemic strokes occur when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain becomes obstructed, depriving part of the brain of its crucial supply.

    Most strokes are ischemic strokes. Many medical problems can contribute to clot formation and, consequently, a stroke. One of them is having high cholesterol levels.

    How cholesterol causes atherosclerosis
    Cholesterol is a waxy type of fat that’s found throughout your body. If you have too much cholesterol in your body, you’re at an increased risk of atherosclerosis.

    Atherosclerosis is a condition in which the blood vessels get clogged up with fatty deposits called plaque. Plaques can harden and cause the arteries to narrow. If this happens to the carotid arteries, atherosclerosis raises the risk of stroke.

    How atherosclerosis can cause stroke
    Eventually, a plaque in the carotid arteries can rupture. Platelets group together at the site and form a blood clot. This blood clot can prevent blood from getting through the artery to the brain, causing a stroke.

    It’s also possible for part of a plaque to break off from the arterial wall. The bloodstream will then carry it toward the brain until it reaches a blood vessel that’s too small to allow it to pass through. This is another way that a blocked artery can develop, causing stroke.

    Here at West Hills Hospital , we’re firmly committed to doing everything possible to save lives. Our neurologists and neurosurgeons coordinate with our emergency care team and the EMS team to provide rapid responses to stroke patients arriving at our hospital in West Hills. Call 911 if you have a medical emergency, or you can direct your non-emergent questions to a registered nurse at (818) 676-4321.

  • What are the causes of painful menstrual cramping?

    It’s normal for ladies to experience some mildly uncomfortable cramping during their periods. However, you may wish to consult an Ob/Gyn at West Hills Hospital if you experience severe cramps or persistent pain. You can meet one of our friendly Ob/Gyn specialists when you watch the accompanying video. She reassures viewers that painful menstruation isn’t necessarily a sign of infertility, but might possibly be caused by any of the following conditions.

    Endometriosis is an abnormality that involves the endometrium, which is the tissue that lines the uterus . When a woman develops endometriosis, her body grows endometrial tissue outside the uterus. Usually, the condition affects the ovaries, fallopian tubes and pelvic tissue, but other areas may also have endometrial tissue growths.

    During each monthly cycle, a woman’s endometrium naturally breaks down, bleeds and is expelled. The displaced tissue outside the uterus goes through the same process, except that it’s unable to exit the body. This can trigger thick scar tissue to develop, and cause the following symptoms:

    • Severe pelvic pain during menstruation

    • Pain during sex

    • Excessively heavy periods

    • Pain with urination or bowel movements, especially during menstruation

    It’s possible for endometriosis to cause infertility.

    Uterine fibroids
    These fibroids are growths of tissue that develop in the uterus. They can be tiny or so large that they distort the uterus. Uterine fibroids are not cancerous, and aren’t associated with an increased risk of uterine cancer.

    Uterine fibroids are common in women of childbearing age, and many women don’t realize they have them because symptoms are absent. When they do become symptomatic, women may experience the following:

    • Heavy menstrual bleeding

    • Pelvic pain and pressure

    • Excessively long periods

    • Backache or leg pain

    It’s uncommon, but possible for a fibroid to spontaneously die and trigger acute, severe pain.

    Stenosis of the uterine cervix
    This type of cervical stenosis is not to be confused with stenosis of the cervical spine. Instead, it refers to the narrowing of the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus.

    When this condition occurs, it can obstruct the flow of menstrual blood through the cervix, causing pain and possibly a palpable bulge in the pelvic area. Women with cervical stenosis typically experience menstrual cramping, but only have very light bleeding or spotting.

    West Hills Hospital provides a complete line of patient-focused women’s services, including maternity, pelvic health, gynecologic urology and gynecologic oncology. Our Ob/Gyn specialists are genuinely compassionate providers who encourage women to be proactive in making informed healthcare decisions. You can request a referral to a physician at our hospital in West Hills by calling (818) 676-4321.

  • Make your home food allergy friendly

    Every family has different routines and lifestyles. And so, although everyone with food allergies must avoid their allergen, exactly how this is accomplished can vary from home to home. It can be tricky to make the transition to living with food allergies , but the team at West Hills Hospital is always here to help you. Our physicians and nurses can help your family figure out how to manage allergens in a way that fits your lifestyle, and we’re here with emergency care when accidental exposure happens.

    Deciding whether to eliminate unsafe foods
    For some families, it makes sense to ban allergens from the home altogether. This can be a good option when the child with food allergies is too young to understand the importance of avoiding unsafe foods. However, it’s possible that making the home an allergen-free zone will make it more difficult for the child to cope with the allergy outside the home.

    When making this decision, you may wish to consider these factors:

    • Whether a food ban would place hardship on the rest of the family
    • Whether the child is capable of learning how to manage the allergy
    • The ease with which an allergen(s) could be completely substituted

    Purchasing and storing food
    Regardless of whether the home is an allergen-free zone or not, it’s always necessary to read food labels before purchasing them. Do this every time, even if you’ve purchased the product before. Manufacturers have been known to change their ingredients from time to time.

    If your home isn’t completely allergen-free, your family must follow a strict system of separating safe and unsafe foods. Use color-coded stickers to indicate the safe (or the unsafe) foods. Keep all foods in sealed containers, and store safe foods on separate shelves, away from unsafe foods.

    Preventing cross-contamination
    Cross-contamination is a serious threat for people with food allergies. To prevent unsafe foods from contaminating safe foods, your family should follow these steps:

    • Scrub hands before and after preparing food
    • Scrub kitchen surfaces before and after preparing food
    • Scrub the table before and after eating meals
    • Prepare safe foods on a counter away from unsafe foods
    • Use separate utensils, cutting boards, knives and measuring cups

    Emergency care is available 24/7 at West Hills Hospital for patients who develop serious or life-threatening allergic reactions. Call 911 for all true medical emergencies. General healthcare questions about our patient-focused and compassionate medical services can be directed to a registered nurse in West Hills at (818) 676-4321.