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Drugs and alternative medicine

a smiling senior woman wearing a straw hat looks at labels in the pharmacy aisle of a store

Modern medicine has made many advances that help us live longer, healthier lives. Some of the most important advances include medications that treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other conditions. As the population ages, more people are using these drugs. Although drugs can be lifesaving, they can also have serious side effects. The risk of side effects increases with the number of drugs you use.

Many Americans also are using alternative medicine such as herbal supplements. These supplements may seem safe because they are "natural." But they can be harmful when used with some prescription drugs. And experts still don't know whether many of the supplements and other forms of alternative medicine work or are safe.

Educating yourself about these issues can help you make more informed choices. You should also discuss all health treatments with your doctor. She or he can tell you more about the research and help you avoid dangerous side effects.

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Content last updated: August 12, 2010.

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