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Find out when women should worry about abdominal pain.

If you're a woman, you are probably no stranger to abdominal pain. There are a number of causes for abdominal pain and many times women can determine the cause for their pain and treat it accordingly. However, it is important that women don't take for granted certain types of pain and know when to seek treatment. Here are some common causes for abdominal pain in women, some of which should be taken very seriously.

Ectopic Pregnancy
Any sexually active woman should know the signs of an ectopic pregnancy. These typically include a sharp abdominal pain on one side that occurs 6 weeks into a pregnancy, followed by vaginal bleeding. The pain worsens with movement or straining and, over time, signs of shock occur resulting from internal bleeding. If you suspect an ectopic pregnancy, seek medical attention immediately.

Heart Attack
Women are at a higher risk of dying from a heart attack because their symptoms vary from men, and women are more likely to ignore their symptoms. Abdominal pain can be a sign of a heart attack including chest pressure or squeezing, shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating, nausea and pain in the arm, neck, chest or back. Never ignore these symptoms and call 911 if you suspect you may be having a heart attack. 

UTI
A urinary tract infection (UTI) can make urinating uncomfortable, but it can also cause your belly or back to feel tender or it may make your abdomen feel heavy. It is important to have a UTI treated so that the infection does not spread or affect your kidneys.

Norovirus
Severe abdominal pain or nausea may be a sign of norovirus. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chills and stomach pain. It is very easily transmitted, especially for those living in close quarters. It can be particularly dangerous for small children or older adults.

Appendicitis
Pain from appendicitis can start around the belly button and then worsen to a sharp pain localized to the right side of the abdomen. The severity of pain usually increases over a 6-12 hour period and can include symptoms like nausea, abdominal swelling, tenderness, pain during movement, fever and diarrhea. It is critical that those with appendicitis seek immediate medical treatment.

Digestion Complications
A number of conditions related to digestion can cause abdominal pain for women. GERD (or heartburn) can cause severe discomfort in the upper abdomen and chest. IBS is a common condition and may result in digestion issues including cramping, diarrhea or nausea. During a woman's period, she may experience diarrhea or abdominal bloating in addition to menstrual cramping. Gallstones, pancreatitis and Crohn's Disease are also more serious digestive conditions that result in abdominal pain.

When to Seek Medical Attention
Abdominal pain is common in women, but its cause or source can vary dramatically. If abdominal pain continues without relief and is paired with other unusual symptoms, it is important to seek treatment since the reason may not always be apparent. Are you experiencing unexpected or unusual abdominal pain? Call North Hills Hospital at 1-855-5NHILLS to request a physician referral. If your symptoms are severe, call 911 or seek immediate medical attention.

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Do you think you might have Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Learn more about this common syndrome.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects up to 20% of adults in the United States according to WomensHealth.gov. It’s a commonly diagnosed syndrome that involves symptoms that appear for at least three months. Because it involves bowel movements, it’s a disorder that isn’t talked about openly as much as other medical issues. Don’t be embarrassed by IBS. Get the facts and how you can get help.

What is IBS?

The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse describes IBS as a group of symptoms that occur together. As opposed to a disease, it’s a cluster of symptoms that can include abdominal pain or discomfort, cramping, and diarrhea or constipation. Some people experience diarrhea and constipation.

How is IBS diagnosed?

There is no surefire way to diagnose IBS. It is often diagnosed by ruling out other issues such as colon cancer, celiac disease and infection. Doctors will conduct tests to make sure you don’t have other issues. If your doctor believes you have IBS, you can start treating symptoms and trying to avoid them.

Who gets IBS?

IBS is more common in women and often appears before the age of 35. It may be more common in individuals who experience stress and anxiety and those with other issues of the gastrointestinal tract.

How is IBS managed?

While there is no cure for IBS, many individuals can manage symptoms through diet adjustments, medication and therapy. Because IBS is strongly linked to stress and anxiety, it often helps to manage psychological aspects of the syndrome to in turn help the physical symptoms. Your doctor will help you adjust your diet to remove triggers and may prescribe medication or supplements to help with irregular bowel movements.

Discover whether or not your symptoms could be a sign of IBS. Visit the North Hills Hospital online health information section to learn more about irritable bowel syndrome. If you would like help finding a doctor to speak with, call 1-855-5NHILLS for a physician referral.

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Discover tips for aging seniors to stay safe.

Whether you’re a senior citizen or you have an aging loved one, it pays to stay on top of useful safety tips for aging seniors. We’ve put together some simple tips to help out around the house, on the road and even online.

1. Be aware of common schemes. Sadly, there are many who prey on the elderly with fraudulent ways to take their money. The FBI lists common schemes to be aware of. Help your loved one avoid getting duped on the phone, online and by door-to-door solicitors. Be an advocate for your loved one when it comes to fraud and solicitors.

2. Be safe on the road. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 5,500 older adults were killed and more than 183,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2008. To avoid danger on the road, the elderly should wear seat belts, avoid difficult driving situations and stop driving if the ability to drive safely is impaired. Distractions like loud music, cell phones and food should be avoided on the road.

3. Be careful about falls. According to the CDC, one in every three adults ages 65 or older falls. Regular exercise can help, as well as being aware of the side effects of medication and symptoms of existing health concerns. Try to fall-proof the home by removing hazards and using aids like handles, walkers or canes. Remove throw rugs that can slip and keep areas of the home well lit during the day and at night.

North Hills Hospital offers patients over 65 a specialized Senior Health Clinic for their needs. If you would like to find a doctor to speak with, please visit us online or call 1-855-5NHILLS for a physician referral.

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Learn how to boost your kids’ safety.

During Safe Kids Week, discover easy ways to keep your kids safe. We’ve put together a list of quick tips to help you keep your kids safe and healthy year-round.

  • Buckle up all the time. Make sure your kids always use a safety belt in the car and that they use it correctly. If your children are still in a car seat, make sure it’s installed properly. Drop by your local hospital or police station for help installing it.
  • Keep medications out of the reach of children. Be smart about medication. Keep it away and locked from kids. Always use the correct dose. Check the dose twice.
  • Use smoke alarms. According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms. Check batteries frequently.
  • Talk about strangers. No matter what age your kids are, talk to them about the dangers that strangers can present. From teens at parties to school-aged kids walking home, children need to know how to protect themselves.
  • Talk about bullying. Be a resource for your kids when it comes to bullying online and at school. Look for warning signs of depression, anxiety and anger.
  • Be safe in the sun. All year long, it’s important to keep your kids safe in the sun. Use sunscreen, hats and UV protective clothing on your kids when they’re outdoors. Consider mineral-based sunscreen if you’re concerned about chemical exposure.
  • Use safety equipment. When your kids ride bikes, skateboard or ride on other moving toys, make sure they’re wearing helmets. Use appropriate sports safety equipment and make sure it fits right.

Get the facts when it comes to kids' health. To find a doctor to speak with, please call 1-855-5NHILLS for a physician referral.

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Learn how to safely and naturally manage stress in your life.

Believe it or not, stress isn’t always a bad thing. It's the body’s way of helping us focus on situations we need to be alert for. However, too much stress and stress that occurs too often can take its toll on your health. Learn how to manage the bad in your life and how to embrace the good.

Love your good stress
When your days are busy and you’re multitasking, a little stress is a good thing. Allow yourself to feel nervous or agitated or a little tense when you’re facing tasks that would make anyone feel that way. Stress keeps you sharp as long as it isn’t holding you back, making you feel unwell or discouraging you from doing the things you want to do.

Don’t use substances to cope
When it comes to de-stressing, avoid using substances to cope. Drugs, alcohol and even food are not healthy ways to manage your issues. If you find that you’re consuming something to feel better, work on redirecting and finding a healthier solution such as light exercise or talking to a friend.

Eat well and exercise
Eating too much, no eating enough and not eating well can increase your stress. According to Medline Plus, this physical stress on your body decreases the ability to deal with emotional stress, because not getting the right nutrition may affect the way the brain processes information. Exercise regularly and focus on getting 7-8 hours of sleep at night.

Recognize when stress is too much
Strong emotions like fear, sadness, or other symptoms of depression are normal, as long as they are temporary and don’t interfere with daily activities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you're overwhelmed, if your stress is making you feel ill or it’s causing you to avoid things you’d normally do, talk to your doctor. You may need a little professional guidance to get back on track.

Considering getting help for stress? Learn more about anxiety disorders from our online health library. To find a doctor to speak with, please call 1-855-5NHILLS for a physician referral.

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Learn more about Antay Parker, a PACU nurse at North Hills Hospital, who lives with a serious cardiac condition and recently completed the Cowtown Half Marathon.

At 18 years of age, Antay Parker suffered a cardiac arrest and was not expected to survive. But after a month in the ICU, Antay walked out of the hospital with a pacemaker and an entirely new perspective on life. Last month, Antay also completed the Cowtown Half Marathon. How did she do this? We spent some time talking to Antay about her heart condition, how it has changed her life and her decision to run the half marathon.

Antay did not expect that she would become a PACU nurse someday. In fact, she has her BA in History and Religion. But after she experienced her cardiac arrest and spent her difficult recovery with an exceptional nursing staff, she realized, "This is what I am supposed to do." In fact, the nurses who helped her recover have now become some of her closest friends and were important mentors during her years in nursing school.

Now a PACU nurse at North Hills Hospital, Antay aims to assist others the way her nurses helped her. Her heart condition has been challenging, but she is extraordinarily grateful for her second chance at life. In fact, she seeks out those suffering from conditions such as hers and aims to offer them hope during their recovery.

Running the Cowtown Half Marathon
Antay, 25, explained that she was challenged with a bet and told she couldn't run the Cowtown Half Marathon. "I am on the hard-headed side." she said, and decided to enter to prove to everyone else and herself that she could run it. While Antay was a runner and athlete before her heart condition, she knew this would be an extraordinary challenge for her.

Before the run, Antay spent time with her cardiologist and adjustments were made to her pacemaker, but they did not have much time to test it. "We didn't know what might happen." On the morning of the race, Antay admitted she was "absolutely terrified." But despite her fears and the extreme cold that morning, Antay raced anyway. "I always say, 'If someone says you can't do it, prove that you can until you can't.'" And that morning, Antay did it. She completed the race entirely pacemaker-dependent with no natural heartbeat of her own.

What's Next
How did she feel after the race? "It was so satisfying. I was on Cloud 9!" Antay hopes her story will inspire others who have suffered similar medical conditions. "Whether you are 8 or 80, don't let a cardiac device or event define who you are. I see it a lot with patients. But it isn't who you are. If I ever feel sorry for myself, I remember that I am upright and everyday is a gift. I got a second chance."

Antay's story stands to inspire many future cardiac patients and we are very proud to have Antay as a nurse here at North Hills Hospital. We asked Antay if she plans to run another race. "I hope to run a marathon next," she said. We expect that she will succeed at this goal and many others in the years to come.

Congratulations, Antay!

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Learn when to call Poison Control for you, another adult or a child in your household.

Did you know that anyone with a phone can access free help for exposure to harmful poisons? Here are some tips to guide you when it comes to calling Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222:

Don't worry about calling
When it comes to calling Poison Control, don’t let embarrassment about calling sway you. Parents have called with questions about everything from accidental overdose to strange occurrences like children licking printer ink. Kids can get into all sorts of things and they can get into them very quickly. Err on the side of caution if you think a child in your house may have ingested or otherwise come into contact with a poisonous substance.

Understand that poisons come in many varieties
When you think poison, you may be thinking of a bottle with a skull and crossbones on it. The fact is, in our world, poison isn’t so clearly labeled. Poison can come in the form of paint, nail polish remover, antifreeze, bug spray, toxic gases or over the counter medication. If you or a child has been exposed to a harmful substance, call poison control.

Know that you can call for adults
Parents make up a large number of calls, but Poison Control reports that adults accounted for 92 percent of all poison-related deaths reported to poison centers. If an adult has been exposed to an overdose of medication or any other harmful substance, don’t hesitate to call 1-800-222-1222.

Don’t wait for scary symptoms
If you think someone has been exposed to a harmful substance, call Poison Control immediately. Don’t wait for symptoms like vomiting, lethargy or loss of consciousness.Let experts help you assess the situation. If you’ve mixed medications and you’re unsure or if you think someone has been exposed to poison, call for help with the situation.

Need to take your child to the Emergency Room for a poison related issue? Visit kid-friendly ER at Alliance. If you would like help finding a doctor, give our physician referral line a call at 1-855-5NHILLS.

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Learn what to look for when it comes to colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women. During National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, find out how to recognize it and why you should be screened by your doctor for early detection and treatment.

Pay attention to your bowel activity
The most obvious symptoms of colorectal cancer have to do with the bowel habits. While these can be symptoms of colorectal cancer, they can also be signs of many other things. At the same time, it’s important to recognize that you should not wait to feel pain before you’re screened. Keeping in mind that you should be screened regularly for colorectal cancer, here are some symptoms that may be experienced:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Frequent diarrhea or constipation
  • Unusually narrow stools
  • Bloody stools
  • Persistent tiredness or exhaustion
  • A feeling of fullness in the bowels
  • Frequent gas or lower intestinal pain
  • Unexplained weight loss

It’s crucial to get screened regularly
If everyone 50 or older had regular screening tests, as many as 60% of deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Don’t become a statistic. Talk to your doctor about getting regularly screenings if you are 50 or older. When colorectal cancer is discovered and treated early, the chances of survival are dramatically higher. Screening is not difficult, and can include a colonoscopy, a fecal occult blood test, a digital rectal exam or other methods your doctor can talk to you about. While a cancer screening isn’t a pleasant experience, it’s a fast one that can literally save your life. You can’t afford to miss those important appointments.

Learn more about cancer at North Hills Hospital's online health library. Visit North Hills Hospital online (search for Gastroenterology) or call 1-855-5NHILLS for a physician referral. Take control of your health today.

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As your parents get older, understand the facts of aging and what you should be on the lookout for.

We get older every day. For those of us with aging parents, the progression of time means taking an honest look at our parents’ health and independence. Whether you’re a full time caretaker for your parents or not, it’s important to stay on top of the facts of aging and senior health. Know when to worry about your aging parents and what you need to do to help them.

Are your parents’ financial and legal documents in order?
If your parents haven’t kept up with paperwork and legal documents, it’s time to step in and get involved. Make sure that your parents have living wills. Have your parents assist you in locating all important paperwork. In case of illness or emergency, you need access to this information. ElderCare.gov recommends locating:

  • insurance policies
  • wills
  • trust documents
  • tax returns
  • investment and banking records

Are you aware of the warning signs of declining health and independence?
Independent seniors can begin to show signs of declining health or declining mental abilities at any time. As the child of an aging parent, it’s important to know what to look out for. These signs from the Department of Health and Human Services are cause for worry in that they could be signs that your aging parent requires living assistance or medical care.

  • Poor hygiene and personal care. Is your parent showing signs of declining hygiene or personal care, such as failure to bathe or wash clothes?
  • Forgetfulness or personality changes. Is your parent forgetting things more often? Is she acting moody or responding to normal events in different ways?
  • Unusual or out of character behavior. Is your parent acting unusual? Examples can include no longer participating in hobbies, no longer keeping up with relationships, making strange purchases or mishandling responsibilities.
  • Physical changes. Does your parent show signs of injury, such as unusual bruising, burns or scratches? Is she falling ill often or forgetting to take medication?

To learn more about elder issues, visit our website or for a physician referral, please call 1-855-5NHILLS.

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Know the signs of heart attack and when to seek help.

Did you know that according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, heart disease is the number one killer of women? Make it a point to understand the warning signs for females. It could save your life or save the life of a loved one. Remember, heart disease doesn’t discriminate. Men and women should both be aware of the signs of heart attack.

What are universal symptoms of heart attack?
For the most part, women experience heart attack symptoms the same way that men do. Common symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath and dizziness. These are obvious signs of heart attack and should always be a sign to seek emergency care immediately.

How do women experience heart attack symptoms?
While these symptoms aren’t exclusive to women, they are more frequently confused for other issues when experienced by women. Keep these symptoms and signs in mind so you know when to seek help:

  • Nausea. This is a symptom that is actually more common for women than for men. In fact, womenshealth.gov explains that women are two times as likely to experience nausea when having a heart attack.
  • Severe upper body pain. Women can experience heart attack pain in areas outside of the chest, such as pain in the jaw.
  • Unusual sweating. Women having signs of menopause may not recognize breaking out in a sweat as a possible heart attack symptom.
  • Extreme fatigue. Heart attack symptoms may manifest as severe fatigue. Women need to understand that this could be a sign of heart attack as well as other health concerns.

Be smart about heart attack symptoms
If you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately. It’s better to be cautious than ignore potential signs. Don’t wait for chest pain to occur if you think you might be having a heart attack.

Help prevent heart disease. North Hills Hospital is the first hospital in the United States to have a Cycle 4 Chest Pain Center. Visit North Hills Hospital's Heart Center online for more information on heart health and screenings, or call 1-855-5NHILLS for a physician referral.

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