Doctors and patients should discuss use of alternative medicines

Heart patients, do you tell your doctor you're using alternative medicines?

Doctors, do you ask your patients if they're using alternative medicines?

According to the Medical Dictionary Online, alternative therapies are practices which are not currently considered an integral part of conventional medical practice and are used instead of conventional treatment.

As the use of alternative medicines increases, physicians must be more active in determining what their heart patients should take and educating them on the risks, according to new research reported at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2005. "Depending on the alternative medication, there can be life-threatening interactions with prescribed cardiac medications," said Beth Abramson, M.D., F.R.C.P., F.A.C.C., lead author of the study and director of the Cardiac Prevention Center at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

"What is striking is the number of heart patients taking these types of medications and not talking to their doctors about it," she said. "Some of these patients are on multiple prescribed heart medications."

Abramson, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, advises heart patients to give their doctors a list of the complementary or alternative medicines they are taking.

According to researchers the use of complementary and alternative medicines continues to grow in North America and they find it surprising that reasonably educated populations, who are on multiple heart medications, also are taking alternative medications without talking to their doctor. "There are specific interactions with cardiac drugs that could make alternative medicines dangerous," Abramson said. "Patients are hearing about these alternative therapies from the lay press and friends. No doubt, in the time of instantaneous information on the Internet, patients must be cautious where they gather their information."

For example, certain

Contact: Carole Bullock or Karen Astle
American Heart Association

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