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Women's Health

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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?

1. Use of Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medicines, Herbal Supplements, and Vitamins continued...

For instance, Kaminetsky says people with liver disease should use acetaminophen sparingly if at all. Likewise, certain weight loss supplements could have cardiac implications for someone with heart disease.

And "natural" does not always mean "safe," according to the web site for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). "For example, the herbs comfrey and kava can cause serious harm to the liver," states NCCAM's web site.

Vitamins and minerals are also something your doctor needs to know about. High doses can be risky; for instance, too much selenium can cause gastrointestinal upset, hair loss, fatigue, irritability, and mild nerve damage, according to the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements.

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.

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