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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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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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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

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

Supplements

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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Learn the factors that increase your risk of developing this cancer.

Ovarian cancer strikes only a small percentage of women, but it can be deadly. It causes more deaths than any cancer of the female reproductive system. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to learn the factors that increase a woman's chance of developing the disease.

Factors You Can’t Control

  • Genetics – mutations in genes called BRCA1 and 2 are linked to higher rates of ovarian cancer. Other genetic mutations can lead to Lynch Syndrome. While more closely associated with colorectal cancer, it can be a factor with ovarian cancer too.
  • Family history – if any close female relatives have had ovarian or breast cancer, your chances of developing ovarian cancer are higher.
  • Personal medical history – if you had or have breast cancer or certain other cancers (including melanoma and uterine cancer), your risk increases. Taking estrogen alone after menopause for hormone replacement therapy also boosts the risks.
  • Reproductive history – if you cannot (or choose not to) have children, you might be at higher risk. Each full-term pregnancy a woman has reduces her chance of developing ovarian cancer.
  • Age – most ovarian cancers are diagnosed in women who have gone through menopause.

Lifestyle Choices and Other Controllable Factors

  • Diet – a low-fat diet has been tied to lower rates of ovarian cancer.
  • Fertility drugs – women who are at a higher risk for developing ovarian cancer should avoid clomiphene citrate (Clomid), as this drug has shown to further increase your risk.
  • Contraception – using birth control pills or injectable hormone contraceptives lowers the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Assessing the Risk

If you’re curious about your risk of developing ovarian cancer, there are several online assessment tools available, including one here. Of course, if you’re truly concerned, you should see your doctor.

At North Hills Hospital, we’re concerned about women’s health too. If you’re looking for  a physician to address reproductive or other health issues, use our online physician finder or call 1-855-5NHILLS for a referral.

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Depending on the cause of your pain, both treatments could be necessary.

You reach overhead for something, and pain shoots through your shoulder. Or maybe even when your sitting still, you feel an ache. What we call the shoulder is made up of three bones and many tendons and muscles, and problems with any of them can lead to shoulder pain.

In 90 percent of shoulder injuries, patients respond to non-surgical treatments. Other times, surgery is necessary. Here’s a look at some common shoulder problems and how they’re treated.

Arthritis
Arthritis in the shoulder is commonly treated with one or more of these:

  • Changes in physical activity to reduce pain
  • Physical therapy exercise
  • Injections of corticosteroids
  • Application of ice and/or moist heat
  • For rheumatoid arthritis, prescription medication

In some cases, doctors perform arthroscopic surgery to clean out the joint. In extreme cases, a doctor might recommend a shoulder joint replacement.

Inflammation and Tears
In the shoulder, tendons and sacs of fluid called bursas can become inflamed. Shoulder tendonitis and bursitis are usually treated the same way as arthritis.

The muscles and tendons around the shoulder form the rotator cuff. When a tear occurs in the cuff, half of patients use the non-surgical treatments described above to reduce pain. Surgery is most often recommended if:

  • The tear is a result of an acute injury
  • The tear increases in size
  • Pain lasts more than six months
  • There is major loss of use of the shoulder

Dislocation
With a one-time dislocation, a doctor pops the upper arm bone back into the shoulder joint. Afterward, physical therapy helps reduce risk of recurrence. But if dislocations become frequent, surgery is often recommended.

Fracture
Surgery, including the insertion of pins or plates, can be an option, depending on the type of break. In some cases, simply wearing a sling is enough to let the bone heal. In either case, exercises to strengthen muscles are the norm.

Whatever is causing your shoulder paint, the Orthopedic Surgery Center at North Hills Hospital is ready to help. Our staff includes surgeons, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. Give us a call at (855)-5NHILLS for a physician referral.

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