Take steps to make it easier to exercise year-round.

If “get fit” is one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2014, you’re not alone. Losing weight and getting fit always rank near the top of the list of most popular resolutions for Americans. And for many people, getting fit means exercising more.

Getting and staying motivated to exercise, however, can be a challenge. Here are some things you can do to find and keep the motivation you need to exercise throughout the New Year.

Have Realistic Expectations

Don’t set a goal of having a toned body too quickly, or losing a lot of weight fast. Setting goals too high makes you more likely to stop exercising if you don’t see the immediate results you hoped for.

Choose the Right Environment

If exercising outside your home, look for a gym or club that's:

Exercise with Other People

Exercising with a friend or with a group of people makes it easier to stick with an exercise regimen. You can take large classes at a club or work with a trainer in smaller groups. You can get even more social support by posting your activities and progress on social media websites.

Consider a Personal Trainer

If you find it hard to motivate yourself, a personal trainer may be the answer. A trainer can:

  • Tailor exercise to fit your needs
  • Offer encouragement and praise as you strive for your goals
  • Serve as a good role model for someone just beginning to exercise regularly

At North Hills Hospital, we know the value of exercise for promoting good health. Whatever health concern you might have, we have the doctors, nurses, and staff who can help. If you need a physician referral, call us at 1-855-5NHILLS.

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Stay active in winter months to combat the symptoms of arthritis.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area doesn’t see as much severe winter weather other parts of the country do, but temperatures still fall, which can impact arthritis sufferers. One study showed they experience more pain with each ten-degree drop in temperature, and fewer hours of daylight during the winter means many people spend less time exercising than they do other times of the year. A 2011 study confirmed this among arthritis sufferers in Chicago.

If you have either rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, you probably already know that exercise is one way to ease the pain of your condition. Given that, here are some ways you can stay active during the winter months.

Exercise Outdoors

On warmer winter days, you can take part in a variety of outdoor activities that help reduce arthritis pain. These include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Cycling
  • Doing yard work
  • Playing golf

If you choose to exercise outdoors on cold or damp days, take precautions to keep your joints warm. Some things to do include:

  • Wearing loose layers of clothing
  • Putting on gloves or mittens
  • Using waterproof shoes or boots to keep feet warm and dry

Exercise Indoors

When winter weather is more severe, you can get your physical activity through a variety of exercises. Classes for some of them might be offered at community or recreational centers, while others you can do at home. Some of these include:

  • Practicing yoga, tai chi, or Pilates
  • Swimming or doing water aerobics
  • Using a treadmill or stationary bike
  • Working out with free weights or weight machines
  • Walking indoors at a mall

Stay Active Throughout the Day

Often you can get the physical activity you need as part of your daily routine. Some ways to do this include:

  • Doing household chores
  • In public buildings, using the stairs instead of taking the elevator or escalator
  • Doing simple exercises while watching TV
  • Dancing to your favorite music

At North Hills Hospital, we know how arthritis can make the simplest activities painful. Staying active year-round is one way to cope. But at times, joint replacement might be necessary. In those cases, our Joint Replacement Program is ready to help. You can reach its resource line at (817) 255-1691.

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Smart shopping can help keep children safe.

When it comes to toy safety, shoppers should remember that some products can create a health hazard. The number one concern is choking: several dozen U.S. children died from choking or aspiration between 2005 and 2009. The risk is highest for toddlers between the ages of 1 and 3.

To reduce the dangers of choking, aspiration, or other health hazards, keep these guidelines in mind when shopping for toys this holiday season.

Consider the Child’s Age

  • For children under three, don’t buy toys with parts less than 1.25 inches in diameter or 2.25 inches long.
  • If buying balls for children under six, the balls should be at least 1.75 inches in diameter.
  • Uninflated or broken balloons are a choking hazard for young children.
  • For preschoolers, if a toy or other gift has a string, it should be 7 inches or shorter.
  • Young children should not have toys that contain small, powerful magnets.

Watch for These Health Hazards

At any age, children can be at risk from a variety of items:

  • Toys that produce loud noise
  • Toys that contain lead or other harmful chemicals
  • Toys with sharp edges or projectiles with sharp points
  • Art supplies not labeled as nontoxic

Follow These General Tips

  • Read labels to make sure the toy is age appropriate.
  • Before a child uses the toy for the first time, follow all safety instructions.
  • Periodically check toys to make sure they are in good condition. Look for such things as:

    • Rust on metal toys
    • Splinters on wooden toys
    • Exposed parts or split seams on stuffed toys
  • Check the list of recalled toys and other items maintained by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

At North Hills Hospital, we care about the health and safety of our youngest patients. If your child is ever injured in any way, our emergency room is ready to help. For outpatient surgical procedures, the staff at the Texas Pediatric Surgery Center is specially trained to keep kids calm and safe before, during, and after an operation. For more information about the center, call (817) 255-1010.

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The simple act of washing your hands can prevent many illnesses.

“Did you wash your hands?”

For many of us, that was a question we heard often when we were growing up. But hand hygiene is not just for kids. Proper and frequent handwashing is a key way to promote good health. Since National Handwashing Awareness Week is underway, we’re offering some facts about this simple but important act.

Dirty Hands Can Spread Disease

Respiratory and other illnesses can spread if bacteria and viruses get on the hands and the hands touch mucous membranes. Thorough handwashing can limit the spread of such illnesses as:

  • The common cold
  • Influenza
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Salmonella and other gastrointestinal disorders
  • Hepatitis A
  • Meningitis

When to Wash

Recommended times to wash your hands can be grouped in several categories:

  • Handling Food:

    • Before cooking
    • While cooking
    • After cooking
    • Before eating
  • Addressing Medical Issues:

    • Before and after taking care of a sick person
    • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • Dealing With Pets:

    • After touching an animal or its waste
    • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • Dealing With Bodily Fluids

    • After using the toilet
    • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
    • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing

You should also wash after touching garbage.

How to Wash

The best way to wash is with clean, warm, running water and soap. When soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol is a good substitute. Some procedures to follow include:

  • Removing all hand jewelry
  • Creating a soapy lather and be sure to scrub between fingers and the back of the hands
  • Humming “Happy Birthday to You” to yourself twice, to make sure you wash the suggested 20 seconds
  • Washing and drying your hands thoroughly

The team at North Hills Hospital knows the importance of good hand hygiene. We also know that the you might still develop an illness no matter how well and how often you wash. We’re here to help any time you get sick. If you’d like a physician referral, call us at 1-855-5NHILLS.

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Chronic heartburn may be a symptom of a larger problem.

It happens to most of us at one time or another; we eat a spicy meal, or perhaps drink a caffeinated beverage, and later we get a burning feeling in our chests. Most people know that as heartburn. But when the burning becomes chronic, it’s called gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD).

Thanksgiving meals can lead to overeating and heartburn, so this week is designated as GERD Awareness Week. Here’s a closer look at GERD.

Acid in the Esophagus

Normally stomach acid stays where it should—in the stomach. But if the muscle barrier between the stomach and esophagus doesn’t work properly, the acid can back up into the esophagus, causing heartburn. For many people, heartburn occurs only right after eating and less than once a week.

Is it GERD?

The burning sensation in your chest could be GERD if:

  • You have frequent heartburn.
  • Your heartburn gets worse over time.
  • Your heartburn happens off and on over several years.
  • The discomfort from your heartburn wakes you at night.
  • You can’t swallow easily or swallowing is painful.

Other Symptoms of GERD

While heartburn is the most common symptom, these could also indicate that you have GERD:

  • Burping
  • Chronic sore throat
  • A feeling that food is sticking in the throat
  • Gum inflammation
  • Hoarse voice in the morning
  • Laryngitis
  • Sour taste in the mouth
  • Dyspepsia, which consists of:

    • Pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen
    • Full feeling in the stomach
    • Nausea
  • Acid backing up into the throat
  • Chest pain (always see a doctor to rule out that the chest pain is not linked to a heart condition, rather than GERD)

Some Risk Factors

You might have a higher chance of developing GERD if you:

  • Are obese
  • Smoke tobacco
  • Drink alcohol
  • Are pregnant
  • Have asthma or other chronic respiratory diseases
  • Are a postmenopausal woman using hormone replacement therapy
  • Commonly lie down soon after a big meal

If you think you have GERD, see a doctor. If untreated, GERD can increase the risk of more severe ailments, including esophageal cancer. At North Hills Hospital, our doctors can detect and treat GERD before it becomes a major medical issue. Call 1-855-5NHILLS for a referral.

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Take steps today to keep diabetes at bay.

You can’t see it, but you’re surrounded by a growing health threat. About 79 million Americans—more than 25 percent of the population—have prediabetes. You, a friend, or a relative might be one of them. Prediabetes increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is linked to a variety of health problems.

November is American Diabetes Month, so it’s a good time to look at five things you can do to reduce your chances of developing prediabetes or diabetes.

Know the Risks

Certain factors make it more likely that you might become diabetic. These include:

  • A family history of diabetes
  • Ethnic and racial background
  • Being over 45 years old
  • High levels of bad cholesterol and/or low levels of good cholesterol
  • For women, experiencing diabetes during a pregnancy (gestational diabetes)

Control Your Weight

You should learn your body mass index (BMI) and see if your weight is appropriate for your age and height. You can find a BMI calculator here, and this chart indicates what weight might put you at risk for diabetes. If you’re overweight, losing just seven percent of your current weight can reduce your risk.

Avoid Certain Foods

Foods linked to diabetes include:

  • Fried foods
  • Fatty and processed meats
  • Whole milk and whole-fat dairy products
  • Lard, shortening, and margarine
  • Crackers and desserts, such as cookies, cakes, and pies
  • Candy
  • Sugary soft drinks or beverages with sugar added
  • Canned foods that are high in salt

Eat More of Healthier Foods

Foods that promote health and lower the risk of diabetes include:

  • Olive, canola, and soybean oil
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Avocadoes
  • Some fish, such as herring and salmon
  • Whole grains
  • Beans and lentils
  • Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli
  • Fruit


To reduce the risk of diabetes, experts recommend that you do 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five days a week. Exercises that you can try include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Strength training with weights or resistance bands

As you can see, preventing diabetes requires monitoring many parts of your health. At North Hills Hospital, we’re ready to help. If you have a health concern or need a physician referral, call 1-855-5NHILLS.

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Traveling with your breastfeeding infant doesn't have to be difficult.

For nursing mothers, the idea of trying to travel with their child might seem daunting. But with some planning and proper strategies in place, it can be done so that both mother and baby enjoy their trip. And some experts say it’s actually easier to travel with a baby who’s breastfeeding rather than taking formula, since mom doesn’t have to mess with packing the bottles or formula and worry about keeping the bottles sterile.

Things to Take

Some things to consider taking before heading out on your travels include:

  • Loose-fitting tops that you can easily pull up
  • A light blanket to screen yourself when you can’t find a private spot
  • A sling or soft infant carrier, which has several benefits:

    • Makes it easier to carry a child for long periods
    • Keeps skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby, which helps sustains the mother's milk supply
    • Offers the baby extra protection

Things to Do

  • With infants under six months old, feed them on demand, which will maintain milk supply and keep the child happy.
  • For long car trips, try to plan for stops that will allow for easy, comfortable feeding locations.
  • If you need to use pumped breast milk during your travels, store it in clean, tightly sealed containers.
  • Don’t worry about refrigerating pumped milk for short periods. Freshly pumped milk remains safe at room temperature for up to eight hours.
  • Get any needed vaccinations for your particular travel destination. In most cases, vaccines will not make your milk unsafe (you can get more information here).
  • If you’re flying, try to get an aisle or window seat to make it easier to feed during the flight.
  • If you’re flying and bringing pumped milk with you, notify TSA agents if you have more than 3.4 ounces.
  • Learn the laws about public breastfeeding for your final destination. Most states allow public breastfeeding, but check to make sure.

At North Hills Hospital, we know the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child. We’re proud to partner with Pevytoe Consulting to offer prenatal education that includes classes on breastfeeding. For more information call 817-380-5929.

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Medication isn’t the only way to relieve pain.

After an injury or accident, or while experiencing chronic pain, you might try over-the-counter pain relievers or get a prescription for more powerful drugs. Both kinds of pain relievers, however, can have side effects. If you’re going through rehabilitation and dealing with pain, you might want to consider alternative pain relief methods.

Relaxation Techniques

Methods of relaxing the body can reduce pain, especially chronic pain. Some of the specific techniques for achieving relief include:

  • Mindfulness meditation – This calls for focusing only on the current moment, and not judging any thoughts, feelings, or sensations in the body—such as pain.
  • Breathing exercise – This focused breathing is meant to relieve pain. It requires paying close attention to each inhale and exhale, which should be as deep as possible. During breathing exercises, practitioners are encouraged to keep their shoulders and stomach relaxed.
  • Progressive relaxation – Starting at either the top of the head or the toes, patients tighten and then relax the muscles in each major region of the body.
  • Hypnosis – Done either with a trained practitioner or alone, a sequence of steps leads a patient into deep relaxation.


Acupuncture has been used in China for several thousand years to reduce pain. A doctor places thin metal needles into points on the surface of the skin that correspond to the part of the body experiencing pain. Acupuncture has been to shown to help with:

  • Lower-back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Certain headaches


A number of supplements are thought to help pain, especially the pain of osteoarthritis. Some of these include:

  • Capsaicin, the chemical in hot peppers that gives them their heat
  • SAM-e, an amino acid
  • Fish oil, which helps reduce inflammation
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin, which, when taken together, are especially helpful with severe knee arthritis.

Cognitive Therapy

This form of therapy, initially developed to treat various psychological conditions, has also been shown to help patients cope with chronic pain.

When you need rehabilitation to ease pain and restore mobility, Therapy Services at North Hills Hospital are ready to help. For more information about both inpatient and outpatient services, call (817) 255-1672.

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If you need back surgery, here are some things to consider.

Thanks to minimally invasive techniques, back surgery is easier and less painful than ever before. But surgery still presents patients with challenges as they recover, especially for more involved spinal procedures, such as removing bone spurs or fusing two bones. Here's what to expect if you or a loved one will be undergoing back surgery.

Pain Management

For any back surgery, you can expect pain for several days or more. If your surgery was to relieve pressure on nerves, you might still feel pain, numbness, or weakness along the affected nerves. In the hospital, you’ll most likely receive intravenous pain medication. When you go home, your doctor will give you a prescription for medication you'll take orally.

Wound Care

The site of the surgery will be sutured for up to two weeks. You should check the wound to see if it:

  • Begins to open
  • Feels warm
  • Looks red or swollen

In rare cases, the wound may get infected. Signs of infection include:

  • High temperature
  • Chills
  • Redness or swelling around the wound

Contact your doctor if you have symptoms associated with an infection.

Physical Activity

Depending on the type of surgery, activity might be limited for several weeks to several months. Some considerations include:

  • If you’re given a back brace or support, be sure to use it.
  • Don't ride in a car, even as a passenger, for two weeks.
  • Bend at the knees, not the waist.
  • Don’t lift or carry anything over ten pounds.
  • Limit walks and the use of stairs in the first two weeks after surgery.

Physical Therapy

Your doctor will give you exercises to strengthen your muscles, and in some cases he might recommend seeing a physical therapist.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor if you develop an infection. Symptoms might include:

  • A wound oozing green or yellow fluid
  • Losing feeling in your limbs
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Worsening pain

At North Hills Hospital, we’re proud to offer a state-of-the-art Orthopedic Surgery Center with skilled spinal surgery staff. If you’d like a physician referral for any kind of orthopedic care, call 1-855-5NHILLS.

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Here's a few facts you might not know about breast cancer.

September is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and many media outlets focus on the most common risk factors for the disease and its typical symptoms. Meanwhile, breast cancer research continues to explore new causes for the disease, and, because breast cancer can take several forms, some symptoms might not be well known either.

What’s in Your Food

Eating more plants seems to lower the risk of developing cancer, but a chemical found in the soil around them may boost it. In one study scientists saw a link between breast cancer and cadmium. This heavy metal turns up in many fertilizers used to grow our food. Other sources of cadmium include:

  • Burned fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas
  • Burned wood
  • Emissions from incinerating municipal waste and medical waste
  • Crabs and mussels
  • Organ meats

Chemicals in the Air

Certain chemicals in environmental pollutants are similar to estrogen and other hormones. Exposure to those chemicals seems to raise the risk of breast cancer. The chances of breast tissue damage is highest when:

  • An unborn baby's mammary glands are forming
  • A girl reaches puberty
  • A woman is pregnant

Drinking and Hormones

Postmenopausal women who drink alcohol daily and take hormone replacement therapy for five years or more increase their chances of developing breast cancer. One study showed that mixing the therapy with 1.5 drinks per day doubled the risk. The good news is that the risk is lowered when the therapy ends.

The Unexpected Symptoms

Some less well-known symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • Swelling of the breast
  • Enlarged lymph node under the arm with associated redness
  • Discoloration of the breast
  • Dimpled texture to breast skin

Some of these symptoms are associated with inflammatory breast cancer, a rare form of the disease.

If you experience any unusual changes to your breast or nipples, don’t hesitate—see a doctor. In most cases, the cause is not cancer, but it’s better to be safe. And if you have questions about women’s health issues or need a doctor,  call North Hills Hospital at 1-855-5NHILLS for a physician referral.

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