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An Empowered Patient's Third Communication Tool: Honesty

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"Patients lie." I wish I had a nickel for every doctor who has told me that.

It seems we patients aren't totally honest about all kinds of things. Those white lies may be seemingly simple--like how many times we exercise each week, or how many alcoholic drinks we enjoy each week.

But sometimes they can be more dangerous.

Some of the examples doctors have given me include patients who have high blood pressure, but continue shaking salt on everything they eat - yet deny that fact to their doctors. Or patients who swallow every alternative herbal remedy that says it will take care of ____ (name any symptom) - but don't bother telling their doctors. Or patients who don't fill prescriptions, or take their meds at the right times, or show up for physical therapy, but claim they do.... the list goes on and on.

I'm not convinced that patients really lie, per se. I think the real problem is that we patients are afraid our doctors will judge us - just like almost every other human being in our lives does. As children we feared that the truth could get us in trouble with parents or teachers. For many adults, that fear never goes away. So when they get to their doctor appointments, they shade or withhold the truth. They don't think of it as lying.

In some cases, it's not even a question of withholding or not telling the truth. We just don't think of it, or we may not even realize we should be sharing information. And, because our doctors are so busy, they don't ask. Someone with high cholesterol may not realize that shellfish is very high in cholesterol because they don't see "fat" in shellfish. Many patients have no clue that a multi-vitamin can affect medicine they are taking, and it never occurs to them that their one-a-day could be the reason they continue to experience difficult symptoms.

I'm not making excuses for you, though! In fact, quite the opposite. What I hope you see is the folly of your ways if you don't come clean with your doctor. I also hope you'll begin regarding everything you do to and for your body as a potential influencer of your health.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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