Many Americans age 50 and over are not discussing the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) with their physicians, according to a recent survey from AARP and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).
It’s not that the older population doesn’t use CAM. Fifty-three percent of the 1,013 people surveyed revealed they had used CAM at some point in their lifetime. Of those, only 58 percent said they had mentioned it to a health care provider. This is of concern because some CAM products can interact with other medicines.
In a press release, NCCAM director Dr. Josephine P. Briggs said:
“In this survey, we found that 37 percent of respondents have used an herbal product or dietary supplement in the past 12 months. Some of these natural products can interact with conventional treatments. As we’ve learned from NCCAM-funded research into herbal and dietary supplements, natural does not always mean safe. Thus, an open dialogue about CAM use, particularly herbals and dietary supplements, is vital to ensuring safe and coordinated care.”
Interestingly, the survey also found that when CAM is discussed at all, it is the patient, rather than the health care provider, who is more likely to initiate the conversation. Forty-two percent of respondents said their doctors don’t ask about CAM, and 30 percent didn’t realize it was something they should mention to their doctor.
Elinor Ginzler, vice president of AARP, said in a press release:
“Older Americans want to lead healthy, active lives, and that means using health care safely. For many people, CAM is an important part of staying healthy, but some CAM products may make conventional medicines less effective or lead to potentially dangerous interactions. Health care providers and patients need to start talking together to ensure you get the full benefit of both CAM and your medications.”
The same advice would apply to younger patients, and it seems that both patients and their doctors need to be more open about use of CAM.
Related: 5 Ways to Partner with your Doctor
Ann Pietrangelo is the author of “No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis,” a memoir. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and The Author’s Guild, and a regular contributor to Care2 Healthy & Green Living and Care2 Causes. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo