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5 White Lies We Tell Our Doctors

5 White Lies We Tell Our Doctors

Annie Tucker Morgan | DivineCaroline

July 30, 2010

It starts harmlessly enough: you’re sitting in a doctor’s examining room, reflecting on how well you’ve taken care of your body since your last visit a year ago. Sure, you might have hit the bars more and the gym less than you meant to, but you think you’ve been pretty good overall.

Not so fast—on second thought, those habits also mean that you’ve put on a few pounds and bummed too many cigarettes off strangers when you’re two martinis deep, and even your skin is paying the price.

As you enter this shame spiral, you hear a brisk knock on the door. Oh no, it’s the doctor! She’s going to take one look at you and see right through the shell of a person you’ve become to the multitude of sins you’ve committed. And here’s where the lies begin—you’re not hurting anyone by stretching the truth a bit, right? Wrong. You’re actually hurting yourself. If you truly care about your health, you’ll avoid blurting out these five fibs to your physician in the future.

1. “I don’t drink that much.”

Certainly, there are weeks when you don’t touch alcohol because you’re swamped at work or simply not in the mood. But for the majority of us, there are just as many weeks when we drink a couple more glasses of wine while cooking than we intended to, or when happy hour becomes happy four hours. When your doctor asks you how much booze you consume, he’s looking for an average, so it’s your responsibility to take into account both your “off” weeks and your “on” ones, and come up with an accurate representation of your imbibement. Yet patients continually lowball this figure when they’re in the hot seat (or on the examining table, as it were) or say things like, “I drink only once a week.” Just be aware that your doctor’s onto you: as Rakhi Dimino, MD, told WebMD, women who make the latter claim might indulge only one night weekly, “but then they drink six or seven cocktails in [that] evening.”

In addition, it’s fairly well known that whatever number of weekly drinks you tell your doctor you have, he doubles or even triples it automatically. So, given that fudging the figure is futile in the first place, it’s to your advantage to tell the truth, not only because it’s simply easier, but also—and more important—because of the fact that negative interactions between alcohol and numerous types of over-the-counter and prescription drugs are extremely common. Even if you never take anything stronger than Advil, consuming three or more alcoholic beverages per day along with ibuprofen can cause stomach bleeding and liver damage. If you come clean with your doctor about your true alcohol intake, he can recommend medication for you that’s certain not to put your health at risk.

Next: “I don’t smoke cigarettes.” →

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