Your doctor gathers many facts about your health at each visit to help them offer prevention strategies, treatments and otherwise keep you in optimal health. Some of the information collected is concrete—such as your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol count. And let’s face it: numbers don’t lie.
But what about the other factors that influence your health? When your doctor relies on you to give them information about your health, it’s important that you state only the facts. Your health, and possibly even your life depend on it.
Here are the most common lies people tell their doctors and why they’re dangerous:
“I’m not on any medications”
Your doctor knows which prescription medications you are taking, but if you are taking anything over the counter, including supplements, you need to let them know. Certain combinations of medicines and supplements can cause dangerous interactions or may make an important medication less effective. You can avoid harmful interactions and side effects by being honest with your doctor about everything you take.
“I don’t smoke or drink too much alcohol”
According to the CDC, smoking cigarettes causes nearly one in five deaths in the U.S. In addition, smoking can cause serious health problems including high blood pressure, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and vision problems. It also puts you at greater risk for stroke. It’s important to let your doctor know if you smoke so they can help you get the support you need to quit.
The National Institutes of Health defines moderate drinking as no more than seven drinks per week for women and no more than fourteen drinks per week for men. And while there are some potential health benefits linked to light drinking, any alcohol use increases your risk of developing health problems, including cancer, pancreatitis, liver disease, stroke and more. Being honest with your doctor about how much you drink can help them interpret your blood work and other health numbers for more accurate diagnoses.
“I exercise every day”
Good intentions about exercise are not the same as actually doing it regularly. Lack of exercise can lead to multiple health problems including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and more. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity or some combination of both. Talk to your doctor about your exercise goals and realities—and be honest. Your doctor can help you form an exercise plan that will reduce your risk of health conditions and help you avoid premature death.
“I only have one sexual partner”
Sexual activity can be hard to discuss, but you’re better off skipping the embarrassment and being honest. Your risk for sexually transmitted diseases goes up along with the number of your sexual partners. Your doctor can offer you tests for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and recommend safe sex practices. Many STDs can be easily diagnosed and treated, so speaking up is the best way to protect your health.
“I feel perfectly happy”
Feeling stressed, anxious or depressed? Your doctor needs to know that everything is not fine. If you’re struggling with new or recurring symptoms of a mental health problem, your doctor can help—but only if you tell them. Keeping feelings to yourself can lead to alcohol or drug abuse as coping techniques and to other self-destructive behaviors. In addition, you may be at risk for suicide. You are not alone talk to your doctor and get the help you need.