Are you one in four patients who admits to lying to his or her doctor during their annual physical? While it is understandable that you may want to avoid being scolded about your eating or smoking, fudging the truth can keep your doctors from being able to do their job properly. When it comes to your health, especially if you are an aging senior, honesty is the best policy.
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Don’t be in denial about your safety or your health; instead, be honest, be proactive and get Life Alert Protection. You might think a little white lie can’t hurt, but when it comes to your doctor, lying to them could actually harm yourself more than anyone. To help you make the right decision, Everyday Health1 has listed the top 10 lies that doctors hear and the negative health impact that each one carries.
1. “I quit smoking months ago.”
One in 10 smokers admitted to lying to a health care provider about smoking in a 2013 study published in Health Education and Behavior. Lying about smoking not only prevents your doctor from recommending a smoking cessation program that is best for you, it also interferes with your treatment. When a smoker has bronchitis, for instance, doctors tend to manage the disease more aggressively because smoking breaks down protective mechanisms that help non-smokers fight off infections, says Michael Guttenberg, MD, chairman of emergency medicine at the North-Shore-LIJ Health System’s Forest Hills Hospital in New York City. Smoking also raises the risk for heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and other health problems that your doctor absolutely needs to know.
2. “I rarely drink.”
Most doctors have no qualms with a drink a day for women and two for men, but many people still lie to their physicians about drinking altogether. This is bad news when it comes to your overall longevity. “Too much alcohol causes weight gain and will cause abnormal liver tests,” says Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director at the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. “The doctor always finds out the truth sooner or later, so why waste time lying about it?”
3. “I’m a fitness nut!”
Lying to your doctor about exercise can hurt you the most. “Just saying you exercise doesn’t improve your health,” Dr. Goldberg says. “You need to actually do the exercise. It’s not hurting the doctor’s feelings if you don’t take her advice, but it can hurt your health.” Physical activity is one of the most important parts of staying healthy and boosting your longevity. If you’re avoiding being active because a certain condition keeps you from traditional forms of exercise, this is the perfect time for your doctor to help recommend alternatives that you may have never considered and are doable.
4. “I only take the medications I’m prescribed.”
Whether you’re popping prescription painkillers or taking illicit drugs, you need to tell your doctor. Drugs can pose tremendous risks to your body, including elevated blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. It’s understandable that it’s a hard truth to tell, but Dr. Guttenberg assures patients that “We’re not the police.” It’s crucial for your doctor to see the full picture in order to give you the right treatment and avoid dangerous drug interactions. And remember, Guttenberg says, “We’ve probably heard it all before.”
5. “I don’t skip any of my medications.”
The common flip side of lying about medication is not being honest about taking the pills your doctor did actually prescribe. If you stopped your meds for any reason, it’s important to say so. “Tell your doctor if you have concerns about the medication you take,” Goldberg says. “He needs to know about any side affects you have been having or if you stopped taking it because it is too expensive — he may be able to prescribe a generic. Good doctor-patient relationships are partnerships. If there is something holding you back from doing what’s best for your health, you’ll have the help you need to get through it.”
6. “I’m a healthy eater.”
When you don’t eat right, you only harm yourself. But when you lie about it, you make it harder for your doctor to determine what’s actually wrong with you. If you have a condition such as type 2 diabetes where certain foods directly affect your symptoms, you are unnecessarily putting yourself at risk for serious health complications. Besides, most doctors aren’t fooled by this fib in the first place: “The scale in my office — it always tells the truth,” Goldberg says.
7. “Sexual problems? No way.”
Your sexuality and the number of partners you’ve had might be a topic you’d rather not discuss with someone in a white coat, but there can be serious long-term consequences – for you and your sexual partners – if sexually transmitted diseases aren’t addressed. “They’re absolutely treatable if they’re identified and the information is available to us,” Guttenberg says. What’s more, if you have a lower libido than usual or trouble maintaining an erection, your doctor is actually the best person to tell. After all, having sex can be an excellent way to boost your physical and mental health. Your physician can help you determine the potential causes of a low sex drive or erectile dysfunction and prescribe medication or other solutions.
8. “Ouch, I feel awful!”
Patients sometimes exaggerate or downplay symptoms. “They might consider it a little white lie,” says Marc I. Leavey, MD, a primary care doctor at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, but not being truthful about your symptoms can result in needless testing or prevent your doctor from getting to a solution quickly and directly. “It doesn’t do anyone any good not to inform the doctor about what’s really going on,” he says.
9. “I’m not sure when my symptoms started.”
This might not be less of a lie and more of something you truly haven’t thought about, but the duration of your symptoms is an important factor in your treatment. Something that’s been going on for a long time probably isn’t as significant as an acute problem that is building in intensity and needs to be handled much quickly, Dr. Leavey says. He tells his patients to think about recent events, such as birthdays and holidays, and ask themselves if they were experiencing the symptoms then.
10. “I have no family history of that disease.”
Lying or forgetting to disclose your family history of a disease is another way to sabotage your health and longevity down the road. “Often, history is destined to repeat itself,” Guttenberg says. Although you can’t change your family history, your doctors can use that information to keep an eye out for specific symptoms and catch a problem when it’s more manageable.
Opening up to your doctor and telling them the whole truth can allow them to give you the exact help you need; without judgement. Ultimately, by lying, you are only hurting yourself and when it comes to your health, there is no room for unnecessary pain. That is why you need to get Life Alert Protection! If you are an aging senior, you can’t deny that the risk of a simple accident turning catastrophic; which is where Life Alert’s emergency pendant steps in. Simply wear the pendant around your neck or wrist and in the event of an emergency, push the button located on the pendant and you will receive an emergency medical response fast, 24/7! Better yet, their emergency pendant is lightweight and waterproof which means, not only can you wear it discreetly under clothing, but you can wear it in the shower as well! Quit lying to yourself and prolonging the inevitable, it’s time to get the best in personal protection with Life Alert! For a free brochure on all of Life Alert’s lifesaving services, please call 1-800-513-2934.
1. Myers, Matt. “The Top 10 Lies We Tell Our Doctors.” Everyday Health. 12 March 2015.