Background: A review of research on complementary and alternative treatments, specifically mind-body techniques, was conducted at Stanford University. The goals of the review were to establish a comprehensive literature review and to provide a rationale for future research concerning successful aging.
Methods: Computerized searches were conducted using MEDLINE, PsychInfo, Stanford Library, Dissertation Abstracts, Lexus-Nexus, the Internet, and interviews conducted with practitioners. All studies since 1990 that examined mind-body treatments of cardiovascular disorders in the elderly were included. Mind-body practices evaluated were social support, cognitive-behavioral treatment, meditation, the placebo effect, hope, faith, imagery, spiritual healing, music therapy, hypnosis, yoga, t'ai chi, qigong and aikido. Studies conducted after 1990 were a priority, but when more recent literature was scarce, other studies using randomized, controlled trials were included.
Results: Mind-body techniques were found to be efficacious primarily as complementary and sometimes as stand-alone alternative treatments for cardiovascular disease-related conditions. Studies provided evidence for treatment efficacy, but the need for further controlled research was evident.
Conclusions: Reviewers found only a handful of randomized, controlled research studies conducted in the United States. As a result, there is a lack of replicated studies with which to determine appropriate treatment dosage and the mechanisms by which many of the practices work. Compelling anecdotal evidence, the presence of some controlled research, overall cost effectiveness, and the lack of side effects resulting from mind-body treatments make further investigation a high priority.