Use of complementary and alternative medical therapies in patients with cardiovascular disease

Malissa J Wood, Robert L Stewart, Heather Merry, David E Johnstone, Jafna L Cox
American Heart Journal 2003, 145 (5): 806-12

BACKGROUND: Complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies are becoming increasingly popular, yet little information is available about the prevalence and patterns of CAM therapy use by patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD).

METHODS: Interviewers administered telephone questionnaires to 107 patients randomly selected from a stratified cohort of 2487 eligible patients participating in a registry of patients with CVD.

RESULTS: The current use of CAM therapies was reported by 64% of the patients surveyed. Nutritional supplements (40%) and megadose vitamins (35%) were the most frequently used preparations. Most CAM therapy users (65%) cited their underlying cardiac condition as the reason for taking such therapy. The most common sources of information about CAM were a friend or relative (43%) or the respondent's usual physician. However, although 80% of respondents claimed that they had discussed their use of CAM therapies with their physician, 58% of respondents taking a potentially toxic cardiovascular medication (digoxin, warfarin, sotalol, or amiodarone) were simultaneously taking an oral supplement.

CONCLUSION: The use of CAM therapies was high in the cohort of patients surveyed. Physicians caring for patients with CVD need to inquire about CAM therapy use. Further scientific study should be performed to evaluate the potential benefits and risks of CAM therapies in this patient population.

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