About a third of men and women in the United States admit to lying to their doctors, according to a 2010 survey.
But keeping secrets can be dangerous, especially if the information you’re withholding leads to a wrong diagnosis. Besides, “a doctor’s job is to advocate for your health, not judge,” say Gary Fischer, M.D., a general internist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
So here are six untruths people often tell their doctor…versus the real situation that doctors NEED to know about.
“I never smoke.”
Actually, if you puff even the occasional cigarette at happy hour, your doctor needs to know. Yes, cancer is a concern, but equally important, those smokes affect your circulation and increase your risk for blood clots. Be especially careful if you’re on the Pill. “Estrogen, found in combination birth control pills, the Patch and the NuvaRing, makes blood more prone to clotting,” explains Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale School of Medicine.
Your doc can recommend estrogen-free contraceptives, like the progestin-only mini pull, an IUD or the Depo-Provera injection, but only if you’re up-front with her. Still on the fence about fessing up? You may not have your habit under control as well as you think: One study found that one in five social smokers eventually starts lighting up daily.
“Nothing’s changed since my last visit.”
Really? When your doctor asks “What’s new?” she doesn’t mean only medically. Whether you’re in a tense relationship or fretting about work woes or money matters, chronic stress can trigger high blood pressure, migraines, tummy troubles and heart palpitations, Dr. Fischer says.
“The stress hormone cortisol throws other hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, out of kilter,” says Jerilynn Prior, M.D., director of the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research at the University of British Columbia. This does more than mess with your period: Estrogen helps prevent bone loss, and progesterone aids bone growth.
The good news: Although prolonged periods of stress can have serious health consequences, there is a lot you can do. Talk to your physician; she can suggest stress busters, like relaxation exercises and yoga. In some cases she may recommend that you speak to a mental health professional who can help you work through your problems.
“I’m not taking anything.”
More than 50 percent of Americans take supplements, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The few natural remedies that you use may not seem noteworthy to you, but they are to your physicians.
“A decade ago many women took Saint-John’s-wort for PMS only to learn that it can make birth control pills less effective,” says Mark Moyad, M.D., director of preventive and alternative medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center.