More and more people are seeking integrative therapies to treat and prevent heart disease.

Complementary and Alternative (also called CAM) therapies include any approach that is considered to be outside the mainstream of traditional healthcare. Many therapies are "holistic," which means the whole person is considered for health and healing. This includes therapies that have physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects.

Complementary is different from alternative medicine. While complementary medicine is used with traditional medicine techniques, alternative medicine is used in place of traditional approaches. While some alterative therapies have helped patients feel better, others can be harmful. It is important to note that medical and surgical treatments are studied carefully and tested extensively prior to being used in large numbers of patients. Alternative techniques do not go through the same type of scrutiny, therefore there are questions about the legitimacy and safety of some of these techniques.

Cleveland Clinic chooses to follow an integrative approach. Integrative medicine, as defined by NCCAM (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)*, "combines mainstream medical therapies and complementary or alternative therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness." Examples of integrative approaches include guided imagery, biofeedback, massage, nutritional counseling, exercise, meditation, Tai Chi, yoga, support groups, hypnosis, music therapy, art therapy, herbal medicine, acupuncture and Reiki (energy therapy).

Before you begin any CAM practices, is important to learn about the therapy, it's safety and effectiveness, the expertise and qualifications of the provider, and discuss these strategies with your doctor. Although some practices can be very beneficial, others can be harmful for some patients.

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Reviewed: 12/13