• 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.

  • What you need to understand about your blood pressure

    Each time you visit the hospital, the doctor or nurse will check your blood pressure. Recording your blood pressure at each medical appointment allows your doctor to evaluate the changes in your blood pressure over time. It’s normal for blood pressure to fluctuate slightly throughout the day, but substantial changes can be cause for concern. If you have any questions about your cardiovascular health, the providers at West Hills Hospital are here to help.

    Blood pressure basics

    Your blood pressure is the force exerted against the blood vessel walls as blood flows through them. Be a proactive patient, and ask your healthcare provider if your blood pressure readings are within the normal range.

    • Normal: Less than 120 over 80
    • Elevated: 120 to 129 over less than 80
    • Stage one hypertension: 130 to 139 over 80 to 89
    • Stage two hypertension: 140 or higher over 90 or higher

    If your blood pressure isn’t ideal, your doctor can help you learn how to manage it.

    Blood pressure fluctuations

    When you watch the accompanying video, you’ll hear an internal medicine specialist at West Hills Hospital discuss the risks of significant fluctuations in blood pressure. Irregular blood pressure can be difficult to diagnose, since you may have periods of normal blood pressure, followed by wild fluctuations.

    Unfortunately, irregular blood pressure can cause damage to the blood vessels. When the blood pressure drops, blood clots are more likely to form. This increases the risk of stroke.

    Chronic high blood pressure

    Chronic high blood pressure, without major fluctuations, is also dangerous for your health. When it’s left untreated, it can cause damage to your blood vessels and heart. Since hypertension doesn’t have symptoms, you won’t know that you have it unless you see your doctor.

    Over time, chronic high blood pressure can increase the risk of:

    • Stroke
    • Heart attack
    • Aneurysm
    • Heart failure
    • Vision loss
    • Kidney problems

    The good news is that you can successfully manage your blood pressure with help from your doctor.

    West Hills Regional Heart & Vascular Institute is among the top 10 percent of hospitals in the U.S. regarding response times for heart attack patients. Please call 911 right away if you need emergency care for a possible cardiovascular event. Or, to request a physician referral, you can call West Hills Hospital at (818) 676-4321.

  • Do you know your diabetes risk?

    An estimated 7.2 million Americans are currently living with diabetes , but unaware that they have it. Tens of millions more are living with prediabetes, which can progress to diabetes. If you’ve never had a diabetes screening before, now is the perfect time to get acquainted with your blood glucose level. The American Diabetes Association has designated each fourth Tuesday in March as Diabetes Alert Day. It’s intended to be a wake-up call that encourages individuals to visit their local hospital to get screened. At West Hills Hospital, you’ll receive the superior medical care you need and the compassionate guidance you deserve.

    Family history
    Let your doctor know if you have any biological relatives with diabetes. Your risk could be elevated if the disease tends to run in your family.

    Personal history
    If you’re a woman of reproductive age, you should be aware of the possibility of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes typically resolves after childbirth, provided it’s managed properly. However, having a prior history of this disease can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on.

    You may also be at a higher risk if you gave birth to a baby weighing nine or more pounds.

    Type 2 diabetes is more commonly diagnosed among individuals age 45 and older. As you grow older, your pancreatic islet function starts to decline .

    This means your pancreas can’t produce as much insulin as before. Additionally, insulin resistance can worsen with age, particularly with unhealthy lifestyle decisions.

    Medical conditions
    Your doctor should know about all of your previously diagnosed medical conditions. Some of them might increase your risk of diabetes, even if they seem unrelated. For example, you could be at a higher risk if you have any of the following:

    • Overweight or obesity
    • High blood pressure
    • High triglyceride level
    • Low HDL cholesterol
    • Heart disease
    • Prior stroke
    • Depression
    • Polycystic ovary syndrome
    • Acanthosis nigricans
    • Depression

    Lifestyle choices
    Although some of the risk factors of diabetes aren’t modifiable, many of them are. You can improve your management of pre-existing medical conditions with help from your physician.

    Your doctor can also help you improve your lifestyle choices. Poor diet and lack of exercise are risk factors, but making small changes over time can make a big difference in your health.

    At every stage of life, West Hills Hospital is your partner in health. Your doctor will work closely with you to help you manage your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes. Call (818) 676-4321 to request a physician referral from a registered nurse at our hospital in West Hills.

  • Guidelines for living with MS

    Multiple sclerosis is a devastating diagnosis to cope with. This disease, which can be disabling, affects the central nervous system. MS occurs when the immune system damages the myelin sheath that protects nerve fibers. As the nerves themselves become damaged, functional impairments develop. Living with MS isn’t easy, but at West Hills Hospital, you can receive compassionate and supportive care from healthcare providers who are genuinely concerned about your quality of life. Whatever challenges you face with MS, we’re here to help.

    Making physical health decisions
    Multiple sclerosis isn’t yet curable. Your doctor can help you manage your symptoms. You’ll also learn about the effects of healthy lifestyle decisions on the progression of your disease.

    You can work toward optimum health despite MS by:

    • Eating nutritionally balanced meals
    • Exercising with the guidance of your doctor
    • Quitting smoking or not starting
    • Avoiding secondhand smoke
    • Limiting alcohol use

    Developing emotional resiliency
    Emotional resiliency is particularly important for patients with chronic diseases. When you take care of your emotional health, you are:

    • More likely to make healthy lifestyle decisions
    • Better able to manage chronic stress
    • Better able to maintain healthy relationships
    • More likely to enjoy higher quality of life

    Be mindful of your mood, and talk to your doctor if you’ve noticed that you’re experiencing persistent or severe mental health issues. You could consider speaking with a counselor. Reach out to your loved ones for support, and don’t be shy about speaking up when you need help.

    Supporting your cognitive health
    Many patients with MS will experience some degree of decline in cognitive functioning. Over time, you may start to notice some issues with your memory and attention.

    Fortunately, enhancing your cognitive health is as easy as playing fun games, like crossword puzzles, brain teasers and Sudoku puzzles. Other ways of stimulating your brain include:

    • Reading
    • Creative writing
    • Card games
    • Social activities

    At any time of the day or night, you can connect with a registered nurse at West Hills Hospital. Call (818) 676-4321, or browse the helpful health information available in our online library. Although there is no cure for MS, our team of highly trained doctors and nurses is committed to helping you live life well.

  • How is colorectal cancer treated?

    Your digestive system has a large and small intestine. The large intestine, also known as the colon, is the one closest to the rectum. When cancer cells grow within the colon or rectum, it’s called colorectal cancer . Like all cancers, this disease is serious, and it requires prompt treatment. The Cancer Care team at West Hills Hospital is here to help your family during the difficult time after a diagnosis. Your treatment plan depends on how advanced the cancer is, and on your unique health history.

    Cancer experts recommend that all adults get screened for colon cancer on a routine basis, starting no later than age 50. The gold standard of colorectal cancer screening is a colonoscopy, which is a straightforward procedure that allows the doctor to examine the insides of the colon and rectum.

    The doctor may notice polyps, which are growths. Some polyps can become cancerous.

    Doctors can often remove these polyps during the colonoscopy. Assuming no cancer is present beyond the polyps, and all of the polyps are successfully removed, you might not need any additional treatment.

    When more aggressive treatment is needed, the cancer specialist may recommend a partial colectomy. This is a surgery to remove the part of the colon that has cancer. The surgeon will also remove nearby lymph nodes.

    Chemotherapy may be given before or after cancer surgery, or as an alternative to surgery if you aren’t healthy enough to withstand the procedure.

    Chemotherapy drugs are given in cycles, and a cycle may last two to six weeks. Some patients may only receive chemo once at the start of each cycle, or multiple doses may be given.

    Radiation therapy
    Radiation therapy is another option for patients with advanced colorectal cancer. In these cases, it may be used as a palliative treatment. This means the radiation therapy is intended to shrink the tumor to relieve symptoms , but it isn’t expected to result in a cure.

    Cancer Care at West Hills Hospital brings together board-certified specialists with state-of-the-art medical equipment to give your family the help you need close to your home in West Hills. Our Cancer Care experts will be here for you through each step of your treatment plan. Call a trusted member of our nursing staff at (818) 676-4321 to request a referral.

  • Understanding binge eating disorder

    Binge eating disorder is a common but largely unrecognized and misunderstood eating disorder. Recovery is possible, often with a combination of treatments, including behavioral health services and medications. By understanding the signs of the disorder, sufferers can recognize their symptoms and know when to talk to their physicians. Here is what you need to know about this serious condition.

    What is binge eating disorder?
    Binge eating disorder is not a new eating disorder, but it is newly recognized as its own disorder rather than a symptom of another issue. Although it remains less well known than other conditions like anorexia nervosa or bulimia, it is actually the most common eating disorder in the US .

    Binge eating disorder is characterized by episodes of consuming excessive amounts of foods without purging to get rid of the calories. Periods of eating are typically followed by intense periods of shame and guilt.

    What are the symptoms?
    Binge eating disorder is marked by episodes of overeating, or binge eating. These episodes take place during a specific period of time—in other words, they have a start and finish, rather than being ongoing. Binge episodes are usually characterized by these behaviors:

    • Feeling out of control and unable to stop to eating
    • Eating until uncomfortable
    • Eating when not hungry
    • Hiding eating habits out of embarrassment
    • Feeling intense guilty or depression after binging
    • Not purging, over-exercising, or otherwise trying to offset the increased calorie consumption.

    People with binge eating disorder usually have episodes once or more per week for three months.

    Who is most at risk of developing binge eating disorder?
    Anyone can develop binge eating disorder, but it most frequently appears in teens and young adults. Women account for about 60% of patients. People with issues with low self-esteem, depression, and a family history of binge eating disorder are most at risk.

    Don’t let concerns about your eating behaviors go unchecked. Contact West Hills Hospital & Medical Center to find a physician who can help you evaluate your habits and help you find the right treatment for your needs. To request a referral or to learn more about our hospital in West Hills, please call (818) 676-4321.

  • 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.