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The Top 8 Secrets You Keep from Your Doctor

Are you telling your doctor everything he needs to know to take care of you?

2. Your Sexual History

"It's really important for us to know how many sexual partners someone has had, so if you've had 40, I may approach things differently than if you've had four," says Lissa Rankin, MD, author of the forthcoming What's up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask your Gynecologist if She was your Best Friend.

It matters to a gynecologist because your lifetime chance of getting sexually transmitted diseases rises with how many partners you've had. “The new Pap guidelines say if you're low risk, you can go three years between Pap smears, but if someone's had 100 sexual partners, then I would say that rule doesn't apply to you," Rankin says.

Men need to come clean, too. Their risk for HIV, hepatitis, and other STDs increase with the number of sexual partners and their sexual preference. Doctors need to make sure men get screened properly and often enough.

3. How Much You Smoke, Drink, or use Illegal Substances

It may be difficult sharing these secrets because you think your doctor will give you yet another smoking lecture or judge you. But doctors aren't there to do that.

Plus, doctor-patient confidentiality laws ensure your information remains private. In most states, doctors can only break confidence if someone is an imminent danger to themselves or others.

What's more, your doctor needs to know what you're taking to protect your health, run the right tests, and diagnose correctly.

For instance, "we may need to check your liver function or you may be at risk of ulcers," Rankin says. There are a host of other medical issues if you've got an addiction or take too much of any drug -- legal or not.

4. Whether You're Stressed, Depressed, or Abused

If you're often stressed or sad -- or if you're in an abusive relationship -- speak up.

"Doctors may not be licensed therapists, but every primary care physician who has been practicing for a number of years is a bit of a therapist because we've heard it all," Kaminetsky says.

Your doctor can help in offering advice, referring you to the right specialist, or suggesting a counselor to deal with stress. He can also evaluate if medication or therapy might help with depression.

5. Defying Doctor's Orders

When your doctor asks if you're taking your cholesterol-lowering statins daily, don't lie and nod your head if you forget three days a week. Admit that you have trouble remembering. 

The same goes for birth control pills. “If I give you the pill and you're not good at taking a pill every day, that would change my approach to birth control with somebody," Rankin says.

If you're bad about taking or finishing the drugs your doctor prescribed -- no matter what it is -- tell your doctor. Your doctor won't punish you. But if, for instance, you've had a stubborn infection that won't clear up, it helps your doctor to know that you didn't finish the antibiotic he or she prescribed.

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