Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)
Tell Your Health Care Providers
Almost two-thirds of people aged 50 and older use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). But less than one-third of those who use CAM talk with their doctors about it, according to a recent survey by AARP and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). If you use CAM, it is important to tell your health care providers.
Why Tell Your Health Care Providers?
Giving your health care providers a full picture of what you do to manage your health helps you stay in control. Some CAM approaches can have an effect on standard medicine. For example, certain supplements can interact with over-the-counter or prescription medicines. Also, some supplements -- such as garlic or ginkgo -- can increase the risk of bleeding problems during surgery. Talking with your health care providers about CAM use will help ensure coordinated and safe care. Your pharmacist may also have information on any dietary supplements you are considering or using.
What to Share
Be proactive -- don't wait for your health care providers to ask about your CAM use. Tell them about all of the therapies you use -- standard and CAM. Talking to your providers about your CAM use helps them to be your fully informed partners in health care. Similarly, it is important to tell your CAM practitioners about the conventional medications you use.
When filling out the patient history form at a medical office or hospital, list all over-the-counter and prescription medicines, as well as dietary supplements. Tell your health care provider about other CAM therapies that you use, as well. It may help to make a list in advance and bring it with you.
Questions and Other Points to Cover
If you are considering a new CAM therapy, ask your health care providers about its safety, effectiveness, and possible interactions with medicines (both prescription and over-the-counter).
It is especially important to talk with your health care providers if you are
- thinking about replacing your regular medical care with one or more supplements
- taking other medications for a chronic medical condition
- planning to have surgery.
Resources that Can Help
NIH's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has a Clearinghouse that can provide resources to help you talk with your health care providers about CAM use.
Toll-free in the U.S.: 1-888-644-6226
TTY (for deaf and hard-of-hearing callers): 1-866-464-3615
Web site: http://nccam.nih.gov