• 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.

  • Acquaint yourself with these common knee injuries

    Your knee is a weight-bearing joint, which makes it particularly susceptible to injuries. Each year, millions of patients in the U.S. seek medical care because of knee pain. If you become one of them, you can rest assured that you’ll receive nothing short of superior care and attentive service at West Hills Hospital . Our Total Joint Team combines advanced expertise with state-of-the-art medical technology to give our patients the best possible outcomes.

    Ligament injuries
    Ligaments are the rope-like bands of tissue that connect bones to each other. Your knee has four main ligaments—two collateral ligaments, an anterior cruciate ligament and a posterior cruciate ligament. Any of these can become overly stretched, partially torn or completely torn.

    The signs of a ligament injury include:

    • Sudden, severe pain
    • Loud popping sound at the time the injury occurs
    • Knee swelling
    • Inability to place weight on the leg
    • Sensation of knee instability

    Knee dislocation
    Sometimes, sudden trauma can cause the bones of the knee to slip out of place. They may partially or completely dislocate due to the force of a fall, car accident or sports-related collision. Some of the possible indicators of a dislocated knee include the following:

    • Severe pain
    • Severe bruising
    • Knee swelling
    • Visible deformity
    • Popping sound at the time the injury occurs
    • Limited movement

    Tendon tears
    Tendons are similar to ligaments, except that tendons attach muscles to bones instead of bones to bones. It’s possible to injure the patellar or quadriceps tendon of the knee, either partially or completely.

    The cause of this knee injury can be the trauma from a fall, or the movement of jumping up or landing from a jump. You’re more likely to suffer a tendon tear if your tendons are already weakened from tendinitis, corticosteroid injections or chronic diseases like diabetes. Some of the signs of a tendon tear are:

    • Tearing sensation when the injury occurs
    • Pain
    • Swelling
    • Inability to straighten the knee
    • Indentation at the base of the kneecap
    • Tenderness
    • Cramping
    • Inability to walk or difficulty walking
    • Abnormal upward migration of the kneecap

    Here at West Hills Hospital, we believe in going the extra mile for our patients. Our Total Joint Package in West Hills connects orthopedic patients to board-certified, fellowship-trained surgeons, pre-operative classes and certified rehabilitation specialists. Find out what our comprehensive, uncompromising healthcare can do for you by requesting a referral at (818) 676-4321.

  • Busting common sun safety and skin cancer myths

    Skin cancer is extremely common— one in five people in the US will get it in their lifetimes—but fortunately, it is also often curable when patients receive cancer care in the disease’s earliest stages. Many people fail to protect themselves adequately from skin cancer because of myths and misconceptions about the disease and sun safety. Don’t fail to take easy steps to prevent skin cancer because of these myths. Here is a look at some of the most common misconceptions people have and the truth you need to know.

    Myth: I won’t get skin cancer because I don’t spend much time outside.
    Even short periods of sun exposure add up over time, increasing the risk of skin cancer. If you have fair skin, this risk is even worse. You don’t have to spend the day at the beach to increase your cancer risk. You are being exposed to UV rays when you’re doing mundane activities, like:

    • Driving with the sunroof open
    • Walking in outdoor shopping centers
    • Sitting at an outdoor café

    This kind of sun exposure is linked to squamous cell skin cancer, which causes up to 20% of deaths from skin cancer .

    Myth: I don’t need sunscreen if it is cloudy outside.
    If you are going to be outside for an extended period of time, you need sunscreen. You can still get a sunburn on cloudy days, and you can still be exposed to dangerous UV rays. Cloud cover only marginally decreases the amount of UV rays that make it to the ground.

    Clouds can also reflect some of the rays, which increases their intensity. Sunscreen is a must to reduce your cancer risk, no matter what the sky looks like.

    Myth: High SPF sunscreens don’t really provide more protection.
    There is a value to using a sunscreen with a high SPF for several reasons:

    • High SPFs compensate for under-applying sunscreen
    • High SPF sunscreens are better at protecting your in extreme conditions
    • High SPF sunscreens reduce chronic UV damage

    Any kind of sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours or after swimming.

    West Hills Hospital & Medical Center provides comprehensive cancer care in West Hills. We have a multidisciplinary team of specialists who combine compassion with cutting-edge care. For more information about our cancer care program, please call (818) 676-4321.

  • Getting to know the patient experience of visiting a cardiologist

    For many patients, the first experience of meeting a cardiologist occurs in the emergency care department. Cardiologists do, however, prefer to meet with patients before a major cardiovascular event like a heart attack occurs. This featured video explains what one cardiologist at West Hills Hospital wishes patients knew about their heart health . By paying attention to the subtle signs that something is wrong, you can get the treatment you need before a life-threatening event occurs.

    Preparing for a cardiology appointment
    Assuming your heart condition doesn’t require emergency care, you should have a little time to prepare for your cardiology appointment . Call the hospital ahead of time to find out what you should bring and whether you need to fast for any medical tests. Your cardiologist needs you to bring:

    • Your medications, vitamins and supplements, or a list of them
    • Your family medical history
    • Your own medical history, including prior surgeries
    • A list of your healthcare providers
    • Your lab results and imaging scans, if applicable
    • A list of your questions

    Expect your cardiologist to ask about the symptoms you’ve experienced, which might include heart palpitations, dizziness or fatigue.

    Undergoing heart health tests
    An electrocardiogram, or EKG, is one of the most commonly performed diagnostic tests for heart health. It’s noninvasive and painless. An EKG records the electrical activity of the heart.

    Another common cardiac test is an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart.

    A stress test monitors your heart while you exercise. If you’re unable to exercise safely, a medication can be used to mimic the effects of exercise on the heart.

    Improving heart health
    Your cardiologist truly wants you to enjoy good quality of life despite your heart condition. He or she will work one-on-one with you to help you improve your heart health. You may also work with other providers, such as a registered dietician, psychologist or physical therapist.

    Depending on the cardiologist’s findings, you might be asked to:

    • Take medications
    • Quit smoking
    • Lose weight
    • Follow a safe exercise program
    • Eat balanced, nutritious meals
    • Increase your dietary fiber
    • Limit or avoid alcohol

    Talk to your doctor if you’re having trouble adapting to a heart-healthy lifestyle. He or she can brainstorm solutions that fit your needs.

    West Hills Regional Heart and Vascular Institute is committed to saving the lives of our patients with our 24/7, nationally accredited cardiac services. Our hospital attracts the top cardiovascular experts in their field because of our reputation for putting our patients first. Call 911 immediately for emergency care, or call West Hills Hospital at (818) 676-4321 for general questions of a non-emergency nature.

  • Should you be worried about painful menstrual cramps?

    Many women experience cramps during their periods, but how do you know when your cramps are a sign of something serious? If you’re suffering from painful cramping during menstruation, consult with your women’s services specialist to find out what could be causing your cramps and if you need treatment. Here is what you need to know.

    What kinds of cramps are normal?
    There is no strict definition of normal when it comes to any part of menstruation. Cramps are a common complaint during periods and experiencing them is not a necessarily a sign of a problem.

    However, these symptoms may indicate that you should see your physician:

    • Your cramps seem to be worse than those of your family and friends
    • Your cramps interfere with your ability to work or do your normal activities
    • You don’t get relief from your cramping with home remedies or over-the-counter medications
    • You have menstrual-like cramps at other times of the month
    • You have fever or vaginal discharge with cramps

    Even if your symptoms don’t fall into those categories, you should see your gynecologist if you are concerned about your cramps, as suggested in the video.

    What are some common causes of severe cramps?
    Many different things can cause severe cramping during your period, including:

    • Uterine fibroids
    • Endometriosis
    • Pelvic inflammatory disease
    • Displaced IUD
    • Overproduction of the hormone prostaglandin

    Your physician will perform an exam and other tests to determine if any of these conditions is causing your cramping, so that he or she can start a treatment plan for you.

    What treatments are available?
    Treatment for severe cramping depends on the cause. Some potential remedies your physician may use are:

    • Medications, such as birth control pills
    • Pain medications
    • Surgery

    Because some of the conditions that cause cramping can also cause infertility, getting a diagnosis and starting treatment is important.

    Let a women’s services physician in West Hills at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center help you find a solution for painful period cramps. You can get a referral to one of our providers by calling (818) 676-4321.

  • How do you know when you’ve begun menopause?

    Menopause is a journey that is experienced a little differently for every woman. Since the signs of menopause vary from person to person, it might be tricky for you to tell when you’ve entered menopause. Your doctor at West Hills Hospital can give you the personalized, compassionate care you need to thrive during all of life’s stages.

    Menopause onset
    The start of menopause could happen relatively early in life. Premature or early menopause is the term used when it occurs before age 40. The following medical treatments can cause premature menopause:

    • Chemotherapy or radiation therapy directed at the pelvis
    • Hysterectomy
    • Surgical removal of the ovaries

    For other women, early menopause might be attributed to genetic factors or autoimmune diseases.

    After age 40, menopause could happen at any time, but usually happens at age 51, according to the Office on Women’s Health .

    To best protect your health, your doctor needs to know about any unusual symptoms you’re experiencing. It’s possible for the hallmark characteristics of menopause to be caused by serious medical conditions that need treatment. Keep track of your symptoms in a journal and bring it to your check-ups.

    Menstrual changes
    The time leading up to menopause is called perimenopause. You can hear more about it when you watch this video, which features an interview with an Ob/Gyn at West Hills Hospital.

    During perimenopause, it’s normal to experience irregular periods. Your doctor will confirm that you have gone through menopause when you’ve had 12 consecutive months with no menstrual bleeding at all.

    Hot flashes
    Symptoms like hot flashes are more common during perimenopause than menopause. A hot flash is the feeling of warmth that spreads over your upper body or entire body. It can cause excessive sweating followed by chills, and areas of reddened skin.

    Vaginal issues
    The lower estrogen levels associated with menopause can cause the vaginal walls to be thinner and drier. This can cause pain or discomfort during sex. Some women become more susceptible to vaginal infections.

    For every stage of life, West Hills Hospital is here for you. Your doctor in West Hills will work closely with you to manage your health during menopause, and can refer you to our excellent Women’s Diagnostic Center for advanced screening tests as needed. Call a registered nurse at (818) 676-4321.