Nearly two-thirds of older Americans use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), but less than one-third of them discuss it with their doctors. That’s according to a recent survey conducted by AARP and NIH. The news is disturbing, because doctors need to know about your CAM therapies so they have a full picture of everything you are doing to manage your health.
CAM includes any health practices outside the realm of conventional medicine as practiced in the U.S., such as herbal supplements, meditation, homeopathy and acupuncture.
Researchers asked 1,559 people, age 50 or older, about conversations with their doctors about CAM. Although 63% of those surveyed said they had used at least 1 CAM therapy, nearly 70% of them had not discussed it with a physician. Their top reasons: The physician never asked; they didn’t know they should bring it up; or there wasn’t enough time during the office visit. Some patients thought their doctors might react negatively or be unwilling to discuss CAM therapies.
Nearly three-fourths of those surveyed said they take one or more prescription medications, and nearly 60% said they take one or more over-the-counter medications. CAM therapies and conventional treatments can interact in unintended ways. This study underscores the need for patients and their doctors to discuss all therapies, including CAM, to ensure safe, integrated health care.