How much you drink, eat, and exercise, whether you smoke or use protection during sex, it all matters.Many of us assume that these little lies are harmless; sure, maybe I don’t work out 4 hours a week, but I did once a few weeks ago — that counts, right? Lying to your doctor is never a good idea, but most of us do it because we don’t want to be judged or scolded for our actions. Being honest about your past will help alleviate complications in your future. A study by the nonprofit California HealthCare Foundation found that one in eight patients engaged in behavior presenting a potential risk to their health, to protect their personal privacy. That includes avoiding their regular doctor, asking their doctor to fudge a diagnosis, paying for a test because they didn’t want to submit an insurance claim, or avoiding a test altogether.
Here are 6 lies you should never tell, and why what your doctor doesn’t know can hurt you.
“I don’t drink that much alcohol”
Many people either underestimate or underreport the amount of alcohol they drink. Underreporting the amount of alcohol you drink will only delay diagnosis and treatment.
But having more than one drink a day, including wine, can increase your risk for pancreatitis, ulcers, heart disease, and breast cancer. Having more than three drinks at a time is even riskier. So if you lie to your doctor about your alcohol intake, and you exhibit these symptoms, you’re potentially leading your doctor down the garden path. To make things worse, alcohol may be influencing the effectiveness of medications you’re taking, and your doctor needs to know.
“I’ve been taking my medication, and only the one you prescribed”
Doctors really need to see the full picture when it comes to your health, so don’t fib when it comes to medications.Make sure you tell them about all prescription and non-prescription medications you’re using. Even things like ibuprofen can have an impact on your health, so be honest. A patient may tell their doctor that they’re only taking about 1 to 2 tablets of Tylenol once in a while, but in reality they’re taking about two tablets every four hours around the clock, seven days a week. Acetaminophen toxicity is real and can be deadly. Failure to disclose the drugs we’re taking, especially hard drugs, can seriously impede a doctor’s ability to diagnosis a health condition. This includes prescription drugs like blood-thinners, antibiotics, antidepressants, and heart medications, as well as supplements and over-the-counter drugs, such as aspirin, minerals, amino acids, botanicals, and vitamins. Often, the doctor can tell if you’re not taking specific medications—if you show up with elevated blood pressure, or your blood tests indicate high cholesterol. Ultimately, however, it’s really on you.
“I never smoke.”
According to a study published in 2013, almost 13 percent of smokers have withheld their smoking status from their healthcare providers. that’s more than 1 in 10 people. Even if you smoke only “socially,” clear the air with your doctor. The risks involved with smoking are widely known: lung, breast and oral cancer; heart disease; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); and emphysema. Therefore, if your doctor knows how often and how much you smoke, he’ll have a better sense of how at-risk you are. That information also can help him monitor you for problems caused by smoking. Some medications can be dangerous to mix with cigarettes, so doctors definitely need to know if you’re a smoker before they prescribe anything.
Junk food, me?
Too many patients try to sound perfect for their doctors, but lying about eating habits in particular only hurts the patients. Many patients don’t want to admit the difficulties they have with complying with the prescribed diet, so it is easier for them to deny that they are eating anything ‘bad’. Instead of feeling shameful for giving into sweet cravings or not working out for a week explain what’s tripping you up so your doctor can give her best advice. Exercise and diet can the best methods for beating these diseases, so don’t lie about it!
It doesn’t hurt
Some patients downplay their symptoms because they do not want to end up getting another stent. This is dangerous since the sooner we find out there are issues, the better the outcome. Finances also come in to play for patients who have financial hardships and downplay their symptoms so they don’t have to pay their deductibles and/or co-pay. This is also dangerous. The advice is to always the truth to your doctors. Many patients who come in and downplay the amount of aches and pains they’re feeling, saying they keep quiet about neck, shoulder, or low back pain. These painful areas may be more problematic than they think. People fall on both sides of the spectrum when it comes to explaining symptoms — some exaggerate, while others downplay. Try to be as accurate as possibly when describing your pain or discomfort in order to help your doctor diagnose you quickly and correctly.
Lies About…Your Sex Life
If you’re sexually active, you need to tell your doctor. You should also make sure to tell them about any forms of birth control or protection you’re using.
It’s not fun to talk about, but STIs are a serious concern, and they don’t always have obvious symptoms. Most STIs are treatable, but they can only be treated if you and your doctor know about them. If sex is painful or you seem to have lost your sex drive, your doctor may be able to help, so don’t be embarrassed.
Letting your doctor know about your sex life will help them know what to look out for, which will help protect you from some of those scary “down there” problems.
Finally, while patients who mislead may be difficult to treat, it’s important to remember that trust is a two-way street. The physician owns significant responsibility for establishing trust in the relationship and should never feel that patients should blindly follow his advice.