• 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.