TODAY   |  April 26, 2013

Lying to your doctor could be a big mistake

Dr. Keri Peterson, TODAY women’s health contributor, talks about the lies people tell their doctors, such as downplaying how much they drink or smoke.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> this morning on "today's health" lies we tell the doctor. we've been guilty of leaving out maybe part of the story when we talk to our doctors and that has turned out to be a big mistake . dr. carrie peterson is "today's" women's health contributor.

>> good morning.

>> why do we lie to the doctor when we are asked basic questions?

>> some people are embarrassed to admit something they're doing, sometimes there's a stigma associated with it, sometimes people don't realize the issue may impact their health so it's multifactorial.

>> let's run through scenarios, the first one what's new in your life, you say not much, same old same old. things are going poorly for you at work, you were passed off for a promotion or laid off. what is the health risk to these lives?

>> the health risk is moderate. woman usually spends about one-third of their time at work, and that can really take a toll on their medical health. first off the immediate thing you can see it can elevate the blood pressure . if a woman is coming on a lunch break and it's high, the first thing i'll ask is are you having a stressful day because it impacts that quickly and some other interesting statistics, if you're under extreme stress, you are 69% more likely to misuse your birth control which can lead to unplanned pregnancies and if you're unemployed and have newly lost your job that can raise your risk of having a heart attack , so it's a real problem.

>> even the most basic question yields all that for a doctor. interesting. let's move on to the next one, this is about drinking, a familiar question for a doctor, how often do you drink? socially, only on weekends when the truth is you probably do a few happy hours throughout the week as well. what is the risk here?

>> the risk here is a high risk and the problem is why are you misrepresenting yourself. is there an issue with dependency or are you underestimating how much you're actually drinking. a woman should have no more than one drink a day. many will underestimate how much they're drinking because bartenders have big glasses, and overpour, one drink may be the equivalent of two drinks and there's immediate risks and long-term risks. the immediate risks if you have one night of drinking you're not going to have a good night's sleep, more prone to injuries, causes you to feel bloated and in the long-term it can cause breast cancer , heart disease among other problems.

>> if you have a glass of wine with dinner seven nights in a week that's okay.

>> that's okay but four alcoholic beverages per night that's a bingeing, a problem.

>> let's move on to smoking, an uncomfortable conversation for some people. do you smoke, the doctor asks, you say not really, maybe once in a while when the truth is you puff at least once a day or several times a week. i think i know the answer to this but what is the risk?

>> the risk is high here. many people don't want to tell their doctors that they smoke because they don't want to hear the lecture, but let's just go over a few numbers here because it's really going to impact how your doctor cares for you. one cigarette exposes you to 40 carcinogens so because of the increased risk of cancer, lung, breast or cervical your doctor may screen aggressively so it's going to change your care. if you're a woman and take oral contraception, that can increase your risk of blood clots and strokes so your doctor may want to find other ways to help protect you against pregnancy so there are factors to take into account. another thing if you're having trouble getting pregnant and you smoke, smoking decreases your fertility so it's something you need to take into account. good news, though, if you quit smoking it cuts your rate of premature death by half.

>> a really quick one in before we go, simple question, how you're doing. you're saying you're fine but you're sad inside.

>> that leads to depression, social isolation , self-medication with drugs and alcohol and there can be underlying medical causes your doctor can test you for and reverse the symptoms.

>> tell the truth to the doctor.

>> be forthcoming.

>> thank you, dr. carrie peterson thank you so much.