Soy Supplements May Not Ease Menopause Symptoms
Soy supplements may not ease menopause symptoms or protect against estrogen-related bone loss, new research suggests. Soy is often touted as a safer alternative to hormone therapy—which has been linked to blood clots, stroke, and cognitive problems—because of its estrogen-like properties. But when researchers randomly assigned 248 menopausal women ages 45 to 60 to take either soy supplements or a placebo daily for two years, those on soy showed no improvement in menopausal symptoms like hot flashes or night sweats. And women in both groups experienced similar, albeit small, losses in bone density, according to findings published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Bone loss typically occurs within a few years after menopause. "Women should be reconsidering taking these types of products for menopausal health," study author Silvina Levis, a professor of medicine at the University of Miami, told the New York Times. "We didn't see any objective clinical benefit for soy isoflavone supplements. We actually saw more constipation, bloating, and hot flashes in the women taking soy."
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Study: Hospitals Vary Widely in Heart Procedure Rate
There's a wide discrepancy in how U.S. hospitals decide who undergoes an invasive—and expensive—heart scan, new research suggests. At some hospitals, most patients who have the procedure, called coronary angiography, are found to have major blockages, while at other hospitals, few are found to have a heart problem. That suggests many patients are undergoing unnecessary procedures, according to a study published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The analysis is based on nearly 700 hospitals nationwide, where test results ranged from 23 percent of patients with confirmed heart disease to 100 percent. The study authors say there needs to be clearer guidelines for when to use coronary angiography, which costs thousands of dollars. "There's a need for consensus agreement amongst cardiologists, and some standards as to which kinds of patients should undergo catheterization and which shouldn't," study author Pamela S. Douglas, a professor of cardiovascular research at Duke Clinical Research Institute, told HealthDay. "We're not doing as well as we thought. We need to improve."
When a Hospital Is Bad for You
The U.S. News Best Hospitals rankings and other resources can help steer you to a top-notch hospital when a procedure or condition requires exceptional skill. For routine care, such as repairing a torn rotator cuff or inserting a heart stent, most hospitals will do a fine job. Still, "most" is not "all." Sometimes a particular hospital can be the right choice for some patients but the wrong one for you.
There aren't many hospitals so terrible that they're lethal. A 50 percent death rate or other glaring red flag would prompt padlocks on the doors. But you don't want a place that has little experience with your surgical or medical needs—or is less alert than it should be for anything that could go wrong, U.S. News reported in 2010. Rates of postsurgical complications such as bleeding, infection, and sudden kidney failure vary surprisingly little, according to a study of nearly 200 hospitals across the country.
What does differ are deaths from such complications, says John Birkmeyer, a professor of surgery at the University of Michigan Medical School and the study's coauthor. Mortality rates at some hospitals in the study were almost twice as high as at others. A good hospital, says Birkmeyer, catches problems and responds quickly. [Read more: When a Hospital Is Bad for You.]
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