1. Make sure to state all the medications and supplements you’re taking, even over-the-counter drugs and nutritional supplements
Anything that you ingest or inject into your body may interfere with its functioning or another medication you are prescribed, so not mentioning them to your health provider puts you at risk of side effects and drug interferences, which can potentially endanger your physical and mental health.
These medications include:
- Prescription medications (e.g. blood-thinners, antidepressants, antibiotics, and heart medications).
- Over-the-counter medications (such as aspirin).
- Herbal remedies (botanical remedies and herbal supplements).
- Vitamins and supplements (complex vitamins, amino acids, minerals, protein supplements, weight loss supplements).
The symptoms of a problematic drug interaction vary and can potentially be life-threatening: extreme drops in blood pressure, an irregular or fast heartbeat, liver and kidney damage, nausea, upset stomach, and headache. The list of drugs and symptoms goes on, and only a licensed professional can confirm whether the combination of drugs you’re taking is safe.
2. Mention all past surgeries and medical procedures, even minor ones, including pregnancies and labor
Being honest with your doctor about every minor surgery or cosmetic procedure that happened years ago might not seem important to you, but this information may be a crucial clue to your doctor that can help diagnose and treat your condition. Be explicit about any surgeries and medical procedures you’ve been through, including:
- Cosmetic and plastic surgery.
- Labor complications or abortions.
- The removal or skin bumps or lumps.
- Trauma, etc.
This is important because some surgeries increase your likelihood of developing certain diseases and symptoms, e.g. a removed gallbladder may make you experience bloating and abdominal pain after eating fatty or spicy foods.
In addition, your previous surgeries may give your doctor some additional insight into what’s going on or point to a bigger issue, like a cosmetic filler may get inflamed or cause severe and even chronic allergic reactions, which may not be diagnosed unless you disclose that you had this procedure.
Finally, anesthesia-related issues, such as the possibility of complications, are always a consideration before an upcoming surgery, and a history of previous surgeries may help your doctor better gauge the dose and kind of anesthetic to be used.
3. Don’t lie about your age and your parents’ medical history
Disclosing the patient’s age accurately is extremely important, as many crucial preventative medical procedures are age-dependent. This may help you prevent serious diseases, such as cancer, for one. Another preventative measure that you might be missing out on is immunizations, the majority of which are age-dependent, especially for kids.
Speaking of children, it is of utmost importance to be accurate about the age of small kids, as the medications they can take safely and effectively lean on the age of the child. It is also important for everyone to notify their doctor about any conditions that run in their family, such as cancer, diabetes, genetic conditions, etc., as your doctor will assign additional tests and screenings for you to prevent or manage the condition you are likely to have inherited from your family.
4. Never misrepresent how much you exercise, as well as the quality of your diet
It is understandable that we want to look good in our doctor’s eyes and often state that our activity levels are higher than they actually are, but a lack of exercise, as well as an unhealthy diet, can set you at risk of diabetes and heart disease, and your doctor has to know how much you actually exercise to be able to access your long-term health.
For one, they can actually help you choose the diet and exercise regime that is best suited for your lifestyle. But a lack of exercise isn’t the only danger, as your doctor may direct you to abstain from exercise or certain foods for different reasons, and if they don’t know that you work out and eat too much or too little of something, you’re setting yourself to more complications.
5. Always state the truth about how much time you spend outdoors, especially without sun protection during the day
Unprotected sun exposure increases your likelihood of developing skin cancer, even during short trips from the car to the shopping mall, to work, or home. Even if you don’t get sunburned regularly, but don’t wear and reapply sunscreen, or used to tan without sunscreen on in the past, you’re at a higher risk of this condition, as are the people who visit tanning beds.
If any of the above-mentioned conditions apply to you, share this information with your doctor, as you will require more thorough and regular skin examinations.
6. Don’t lie about your oral health
We all know how we’re supposed to brush and floss twice a day, and we’re often very eager to share that knowledge with the dentist, even when we don’t really follow this recommendation ourselves.
But the truth of the matter is that your oral health is inevitably connected to your overall health, and poor oral hygiene has been linked to a variety of health issues: frequent coughs, cardiac disease, problems conceiving (in women), and several others. Be explicit about your oral hygiene habits and improve them if your doctor claims it may be causing your health issue.
7. Honestly state your own medical history, including the last time you’ve seen a doctor
Let’s face it, for most of us, going to the doctor is a dreaded chore, especially if you know that you have a particularly uncomfortable procedure to go through, and a few months delay can swiftly snowball into years for some people. Whatever is the case for you, be straightforward with your healthcare provider about the last time you paid them a visit, as, during this time, you might have missed a few preventative procedures, immunizations, and routine checks.
In simple words, your doctor will make a more thorough examination when they know that you haven’t been to a doctor for a while. The same rule works for your health history: e.g. a previous history of many allergies, for example, increases your likelihood of having asthma, so it warrants a more in-depth investigation of the lungs.
On top of that, your medical history may influence the kind of medical treatment you can or cannot receive for a non-related condition, so always make sure to notify the doctor of any other conditions you have or used to suffer from, including allergies and chronic illnesses.
8. Be honest about uncomfortable matters, such as bowel movements, menstrual cycle, mental health, etc.
While it may be a very uncomfortable topic of discussion to you personally, things like bowel movements, reproductive and mental health are what most doctors deal with on an everyday basis. Furthermore, factors like erectile dysfunction or anxiety may be an important diagnostic criterion of seemingly-unrelated conditions, and letting your doctor know about these symptoms will help you feel better in the long run.
Apart from that, symptoms like constipation or diarrhea may be pointing to problems with your medication. Finally, some medications may be dangerous for you, e.g. certain heart medications may worsen one’s depression symptoms, so it is key to tell your doctor about your condition for them to choose a different medication for you.
9. Tell your doctor if you haven’t followed the directions before a medical procedure
Telling an anesthesiologist that you have fasted before a surgery when you didn’t can cause severe complications, as, during sedation, the contents of the stomach may spill over into the respiratory tract, making you choke on your food or develop pneumonia.
It is important to reschedule your surgery, in that case, as going under the knife will endanger you. But a fast not kept before surgery isn’t the only issue, as not following the doctor’s directions may also mess with your blood test or imaging results, so it’s best to be explicit if you haven’t really followed the instructions as you were supposed to.
10. If you haven’t understood something your doctor told you, ask a follow-up question
It is natural to ask follow-up questions, but many patients are too modest and don’t want to impose their concerns to their doctors.
In reality, however, it is crucial that you understand exactly what to do after leaving the doctor’s office, be it making appointments to other specialists, how often to take the newly-prescribed medication or how to prepare for an upcoming screening or procedure. Don’t be afraid to raise any questions and concerns, even if it takes some extra time at the doctor’s office.
11. Let your doctor know if you forgot to take the prescribed medication
It is crucial for your doctor to know if you made any alterations to your medication schedule, as taking too much or too little of the medication, or skipping as little as a day can really affect your health. And it doesn’t matter if you stopped your antibiotics a few days early, skipped contraception or forgot to take your heart medication, you should always keep your doctor informed about this.
The same goes for misrepresenting the amount of painkiller you take daily, even if it’s an over-the-counter one. If you have to take more of the medication your doctor prescribed or supplement it with an over-the-counter one, it can damage your liver and build up the number of toxins in your body, but it isn’t all.
If you’re taking a prescription painkiller, it is crucial to stick to the doses you were prescribed, as several painkillers (e.g. Percocet, Vicodin, Norco, Ultracet) are combination pills and they include strong opioid medications in addition to acetaminophen, which are addictive and damaging to your health.
12. Be explicit if you smoke, drink alcohol or take any recreational drugs
This last point is actually a crucial one, as it can be life-threatening. Alcohol consumption and drug use can mess with the rest of your medications, making them less effective or causing side effects. Marijuana use, for example, can render some antidepressants, heart medications and blood thinners ineffective.
A severe alcohol habit is no less harmful, however, as alcohol withdrawal symptoms can kill an in-patient, especially if the patient didn’t disclose their habit and the doctors don’t suspect they’re supposed to treat withdrawal symptoms and not something unknown.
Smoking tobacco, on the other hand, increases one’s likelihood of developing a variety of lung diseases, erectile dysfunction, heart disease, and stroke. Finally, all of these habits may interfere with your vital signs and health tests, which will prevent you from getting the treatments and health screenings that you really need.