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Complementary Medicine, In the News

Older adults increasingly turning to complementary medicine

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On the same day that that the CDC released a report showing that more than one-half of U.S adults take dietary supplements, a separate report (.pdf) indicated that the use of complementary and alternative therapies is widespread among older adults.

In a survey from AARP and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 47 percent of respondents – all 50 years and older – reported using an herbal product, dietary supplement, acupuncture or some other form of “CAM” in the past 12 months. (In a national survey [.pdf] done in 2007, that figure was 39 percent.) In addition, 53 percent said they had used an alternative therapy at some point in their lives.

From a release:

In the survey, the most frequently cited reasons for using CAM are for general wellness (77 percent), to help reduce pain or treat a painful condition (73 percent), to treat a specific health condition (59 percent), and to supplement conventional medicine (53 percent). Those surveyed could provide more than one reason for using CAM.

David Spiegel, MD, director of the Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine, wasn’t surprised by the figures, noting that the U.S. population’s use of complementary medicine has been increasing by about 1 percent each year. “People spend more out-of-pocket dollars on CAM than on mainstream medicine,” he told me. “Older people are no exception.”

The report also showed that a big chunk – 58 percent – of adults haven’t discussed their use of complementary therapies with their health-care provider. Though this is a concern – as noted in the release, some therapies could make conventional medicines less effective or lead to potentially dangerous interactions – Spiegel said we’re headed in the right direction. “Ten years ago, two-thirds of patients didn’t tell their physicians, so this is an improvement,” he said.

Previously: Americans’ use of complementary medicine on the rise
Photo by storyvillegirl

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