The Lies Women Tell Their Doctors
By Norine Dworkin-McDaniel
"I don't smoke." "I exercise regularly." "Yeah, I
floss." If you've ever looked into your doctor's eyes and told her a
half-truth — or even an outright falsehood — join the club. But those little
health fibs can have serious consequences: Your dishonesty may keep your doctor
from preventing heart attacks, pregnancy complications, even cancer. Read on to
learn why it's worth it to come clean.
It's normal to fib about some things. "So sorry we won't make the
potluck — can't find a sitter." You promise your mother you'll call. But
the one person you should never, ever lie to is your doctor. Yet we do. All the
time. A national survey recently revealed that 52 percent of women routinely
stretch the truth when they talk to their doctors — exaggerating how much
exercise they get, lowballing how much they smoke or drink, even hiding sexual
behavior. We lie, mainly, because we know we're not being as dedicated as we
should and we don't want to feel judged or endure a lecture we've heard before.
(Hey, we're not stupid. Lazy, perhaps, but not stupid!)
Other lies just...slip out. It can be hard in a short visit to bring up
behavior we might be ashamed of (even if there's no reason to be — docs have
seen and heard it all before, and worse). We figure, what's the harm in
omitting a few minor details — like that STD we had in college, or that one
time we forgot to take our birth control?
In fact, more than a quarter of the women in the survey didn't believe their
lies were a big deal. But lying to the one person who really needs to know the
truth — and is bound by doctor/patient privilege and federal law to keep that
info private — can be a very big deal. When you tell even a fib, your
doctor can't diagnose you correctly, which wastes your time and money and may
keep her from giving treatment that could save your life. So the next time
you're tempted to make like Pinocchio with one of the following falsehoods,
here's the truth about why you should tell nothing but.
THE LIE: "Of course I floss!"
"When I was in practice, I heard this lie every day," laughs Paula
Jones, D.D.S., now president of the Academy of General Dentistry. "I'd ask,
'How often?'" And the truth would start to come out. "They'd say, 'Oh,
a couple of times a week' or 'I only do this one tooth where food gets
WHY YOU SHOULD COME CLEAN: Neglecting to floss leads directly to
tooth decay, gum inflammation, and gum disease — and a growing body of research
suggests that gum disease may contribute to cardiovascular disease. Some
studies also suggest a link between gum disease and a life-threatening
pregnancy complication called preeclampsia. If you cop to being a non-flosser,
your dentist can make doubly sure to watch for and help you prevent these