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Supplements


ID-100176557Beware of using over-the-counter supplements. They are not typically FDA-approved, and may not contain the ingredients that they claim to. Always consult your physician before starting any herbal (even organic) supplements.

by Richard H. Smith, MD

Discussions about supplements are trending fiercely on the Internet. Supplements frighten cardiologists, and for good reason. They are not prescribed medications and can contain active ingredients that in some cases, can raise blood pressure aggravate arrhythmias, heart attacks and strokes. Supplements range from seemingly innocent medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Motrin or Aleve), and decongestants or nose drops as well as any of a variety of supplements/herbal medications that people may buy in seemingly reputable places such as Walgreens or Whole Foods. Many people are concerned that their supplements may not contain the active ingredients that they are advertised to.

People should not take supplements in lieu of their prescribed medications mainly because supplements are not regulated by the FDA. Therefore, if people have a conditions such as high cholesterol, they are much better off taking a drug such as a prescribed Statin – FDA-approved for cholesterol lowering in randomized clinical trials, as opposed to taking a supplement that may have no active ingredients to make contain harmful substances.

Recently, national retailers were accused of selling dietary supplements that were fraudulent and did not contain the active ingredients listed. Examples of these are Ginseng from GNC that contained no ginseng, but did contain rice and wheat grass, as well as Echinacea that contained no Echinacea. Another issue is that people tend to use the Internet for medical information and the Internet is fraught with information that may be unreliable.

If you search long and hard enough, you will always be able to find at least one person or group of people that I’ve had similar side effects to the medication. However, this particular side effect is not worn out in large clinical trials when there are tens of thousands of patients studied. Therefore, it is safer to use evidence-based medicine to help guide treatment as opposed to anecdotal reports that are usually unreliable.

It is very important to speak with your physician before making any choices about stopping medications that are prescribed and replacing them with supplements. It is also necessary to mention all or any supplements you may be taking when you visit your doctor.

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