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Herbal products and other supplements: use by elderly veterans with depression and dementia and their caregivers.

Kales HC, Blow FC, Welsh DE, Mellow AM. Herbal products and other supplements: use by elderly veterans with depression and dementia and their caregivers. Journal of geriatric psychiatry and neurology. 2004 Mar 1; 17(1):25-31.

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The use of herbal products and other "natural" supplements among the US population is on the rise. Limited data suggest that such use among the elderly may correlate with higher education levels as well as psychiatric symptoms. The authors examined herbal/supplement use among elderly veterans with depression and/or dementia (n = 82) and their primarily elderly caregivers (n = 56). Eighteen percent of subjects and 16% of caregivers used herbals/supplements. Seventy-five percent of subjects who used these products during the study period were also taking potentially interacting medications. Given the prior association of herbal/supplement use with higher education levels, a surprising number of elderly veterans with depression and/or dementia (the majority of whom had high school or less education) used these products. As evidenced by missing documentation in many physician notes, subjects may not have discussed their usage of herbals/supplements with their physicians. In light of the possibility of potentially harmful drug interactions, physicians who treat elderly patients should regularly inquire about the use of these products.

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