25 Things Your Doctor Won’t Tell You
Is your doctor keeping secrets from you? Not exactly. But there are some things your doctor either doesn’t know, can’t say, or doesn’t want to get into with you. Here are 7 things your doctor won’t tell you:
BMI Is Not an Accurate Measure of Health
You’ve probably grown up learning how you compare to others based on this tool: BMI, or the Body Mass Index. Based on body weight and height, it’s a chart loved and overused by doctors and gym teachers everywhere. Have you ever been within the “normal” range of your BMI? No? Not to worry, most people aren’t either!
The problem with this tool is that it only takes two variables into account, as illustrated by its formula: BMI = kg/m2. If you go into the street right now and look around, you’ll most likely notice many different body types and a variety of physical conditions: elderly people, pregnant women, heavy-lifting or endurance athletes. All these people have this one thing in common: they screw up the BMI chart. Their body composition, whether it be excess or lack of muscle, or an extra human growing inside them, is not taken into account by the Body Mass Index. Therefore, they always measure up as being too low or too high on the scale when, in fact, their health can still be extremely good.
You Probably Don’t Need Pills to Sleep Better
Ever walk into your doctor’s office having not slept for days, only to beg them to mercifully prescribe some pills to help you fall – and stay – asleep? Well apparently you could have saved yourself the trip and the drugstore bill with this ancient sleep remedy: meditation.
Now before you click away, hear us out! Most people who suffer from insomnia are actually very stressed or anxious and cannot quiet their thoughts when their head hits the pillow. Sound familiar? Well mindfulness and guided meditation can actually help these sleepless people regain control of their bedtime. A number of cellphone applications have in fact been developed to help the average human make sense of this ancient practice. Some even offer sleep-specific programs to help you go to sleep faster and obtain a higher quality snoozing experience. And the best part: a lot of them are completely free! Worth a try before your next sprint to the doctor’s office.
Your “Healthy Diet” Is Probably Not Very Healthy
If you ask any average American if they eat healthily, the answer you will hear most often is, “Mostly, yes…at least, I think so!” Super convincing, right? And then if you press further and ask exactly what they eat or what a healthy diet consists of, you’ll be surprised by the number of different answers that you hear.
Now you would think that asking your doctor would yield better answers, but think again! What doctors are mostly concerned with are the extremes, the excess: heavy drinking, eating too much sugar, and so on. But what about the in-betweens of it all? Are they healthy? Probably not.
See, most people think that cheese is healthy when it’s on a salad and that chicken that comes out of a box in a freezer at the grocery store has the same nutritional value as the one sold in the meat section. Without going into the “organic, grass-fed eating debate” one thing is clear: the healthiest food you can eat is food in its purest form (i.e. not from a box or a bag). Eat real food, with a good variety of nutrients and vitamins, and you should be OK.
You’re Probably Not Exercising Enough
Along the same lines, most people tend to overestimate the quality of their diet and do the same with their exercising habits. Although some are self-proclaimed couch potatoes, others will do a minimal workout and expect to have burned enough calories to enjoy a guilt-free slice (or box) of pizza.
Unfortunately, underestimating the amount of exercise you need to lead a healthy life can have devastating consequences on your health. I think we’ve all heard of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease by now. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, most healthy adults actually need at least 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous cardiovascular activity, and to do strength training at least twice per week. With that in mind, do you still think you’re doing enough to polish off an entire pizza?
Tonsils Can Be the Cause of Chronic Bad Breath
Have you ever had foul-smelling breath, even after a thorough teeth-brushing session? The cause may actually be your tonsils and not your teeth. The lymphatic tissues on your tonsils are actually porous and trap food particles. These then become a breeding ground for bacteria and infection. You might have caught a glimpse of the culprits of your death-breath: tiny tonsil stones. These form when your tonsils try to get rid of the food particles through an immune response.
Although not much can be done to eradicate tonsil stones, there are several ways to keep them from ruining your impeccable oral hygiene (or costing you that work promotion!). Some products on the market enable you to either remove the stones or help prevent them. In rare cases where tonsils have caused infection upon infection, doctors can choose to remove them altogether.
Some Cancer Patients Can Develop Eating Disorders During or After Treatment
A recent New York Times article brought to light an unexpected problem faced by some cancer survivors: an eating disorder triggered or caused by weight loss during cancer treatment. Since one patient has admitted to struggling with an eating disorder once her treatment stopped making her lose weight, many have come forward to admit that they, too, were dealing with the same kind of issues. Once their bodies started healing, their weight also started creeping back up – something that can either trigger an old eating disorder or cause otherwise healthy patients to develop one.
It’s especially concerning since the signs of anorexia nervosa, for example, can be mistaken for an adverse reaction to cancer treatments. Weight loss, hair loss and vomiting can be attributed to both afflictions. One patient even admitted to successfully hiding her eating disorder from loved ones for years during her treatment. Although there is very little data on this worrisome issue, it seems more and more doctors should pay closer attention to body image and eating disorders when treating their patients for cancer.
Protein Supplements and Strenuous Exercise Can Falsify Blood Tests
The next time you go to the doctor’s office and do a blood test to check your heart health or liver function, make sure you didn’t have a major weight training session followed by a giant protein shake the night before. Otherwise, you might end up with medication that you don’t actually need!
An essential enzyme to liver function called AST can be found in higher levels in your blood after strenuous exercise or during a heart attack. Better make sure you tell your doctor which one actually happened, huh?! Also, ALT, a more liver-specific enzyme, can be indicative of liver disease or damage when found in high amounts. But high protein consumption can actually boost your ALT levels without there actually being anything dangerous happening.
But beware of other factors that can surpass protein consumption in causing damage to your liver such as: alcoholism, use of pharmaceutical drugs, liver infection or hepatitis. So just to be safe, make sure you take it easy and eat real food the day before your regular check-up.
Good Reviews Don’t Necessarily Mean the Best Care
Just like any other business, doctors are concerned about their online reputation and ratings on sites like Healthgrades and RateMDs. This can lead a doctor to write a prescription or order a certain test that may not be absolutely necessary in order to keep the patient happy.
For example, doctors often find it easier to simply send in a script for antibiotics than spend half an hour trying to convince a troublesome patient that they actually have a cold and antibiotics won’t do any good.
Retail Walk-in Clinics Aren’t a Bad Thing
Primary care clinics often have a lengthy wait time for appointments. This can make it difficult to see the doctor in time to treat simple maladies, such as the flu or strep throat. Walk-in clinics in major retailers, such as Wal-Mart or CVS, are often quicker and less expensive when it comes to minor illnesses that only require a basic prescription. They also typically have more convenient operating hours.
Of course, your primary care physician is still the best option for the treatment and monitoring of chronic health conditions. You should also follow-up with your primary doctor if the initial treatment provided by the urgent care clinic does not get you to feeling better.
Your Insurance Company Often Dictates Treatment
Even if your doctor feels that a certain diagnostic test is appropriate based on your situation, your insurer may deny their request. For example, insurers typically approve MRIs based on criteria, including:
- The diagnosis code attached to the patient’s condition.
- The symptoms listed in the patient’s chart.
- Whether other conservative tests or therapies have been tried.
A clinical reviewer with the insurance company decides whether or not to allow coverage for the test solely based on whether the information in the patient’s chart aligns with the company’s approval guidelines. If coverage is denied, the doctor has to go another route, or the patient is forced to pay out of pocket.
Medicare Can Make It Harder to Find a Doctor
There is a growing trend among primary care physicians to limit the number of Medicare patients they treat or to not accept the government-based insurance at all. According to a survey conducted on behalf of the Physicians Foundation, roughly 24 percent of primary care doctors limit or do not accept Medicare patients. This is because the majority of doctors feel that Medicare does not adequately compensate them for the time it takes to treat older patients, who often have multiple health issues that make them more labor-intensive.
Your Heartburn Medication Can Be Dangerous
Heartburn medications are among the most frequently prescribed drugs. Proton pump inhibitors, sold under the brand names Nexium and Prilosec, can actually cause serious side effects, including:
- Birth defects
- Bone decay
- Vitamin B12 malabsorption, which can lead to neurological damage
It is always a good idea to specifically ask your doctor about potential side effects whenever you start a new medication.
Some Prescription Drugs Can Cause Diabetes
More than two million Americans are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Although diabetes is typically associated with obesity and other lifestyle factors, research indicates that certain commonly prescribed medications can increase your risk of developing the condition. A study conducted in Great Britain found that individuals who took SSRI and tricyclic antidepressants were at twice the risk of developing diabetes. In addition, common drugs prescribed for ADHD in children can triple the risk of diabetes.
You’re Probably Dehydrated
Doctors and nurses pay close attention to a patient’s hydration status and fluid intake and output in acute care settings; however, most doctors don’t discuss this during routine office visits. Many people, especially older adults, suffer from chronic low-grade dehydration, which can cause constipation, headaches, fatigue, and even kidney disease. As a general rule, you should drink enough water so that your urine is pale and straw-colored.
Your Daily Multivitamin Probably Isn’t Doing You Any Good
In rare cases, a doctor may recommend a multivitamin to compensate for a nutritional gap. If you are otherwise healthy and eat a relatively balanced and varied diet, you probably get plenty of vitamins and nutrition from the foods you eat. Continued research demonstrates that a daily vitamin does little to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, or cognitive decline.
Avoid Having Elective Surgery Late in the Day or on Friday
There is a higher risk of complications if you have elective surgery late in the day or on a Friday. This is because the overnight and weekend shifts are often covered by on-call doctors and nurses who aren’t going to be as familiar with your situation. It can be harder to get quick action, and covering doctors are more reluctant to intervene on behalf of another doctor’s patient.
One in Twenty Patients Is Misdiagnosed During a Doctor’s Visit
Primary care doctors try to see as many patients as possible during a day. This limits the time they can spend examining and talking with each patient. As a result, doctors often rely on deductive reasoning and mental shortcuts to reach their diagnosis. For example, if they have seen 10 patients with the flu that day and you present with flu-like symptoms you will likely be diagnosed with the flu. In most cases, these errors do not cause serious harm since continuity of care ensures an incorrect diagnosis is reassessed. To protect yourself, you should ask your doctor how soon you should expect the treatment to work, and follow up if you do not see results as expected.
Doctors Are Focused on Fixing Problems, Not Preventing Them
Less than one-third of physicians talk to their patients about the role of diet and exercise in preventing disease. Due to their training, most doctors naturally approach health from a pharmacological perspective. If your doctor is not particularly versed in nutrition and exercise, you can ask them for a referral to a nutritionist or trainer that can provide you with various preventative health strategies.
You May Not Be Getting the Best Medication for You
Each insurance provider determines which drugs receive preferred coverage under their plan. Patients are assessed a higher co-pay and may even have to pay full price for non-preferred medications unless they meet certain criteria. To receive coverage, you may have to try and fail to get results from multiple preferred medications first, even if you tried these drugs in the past and know they don’t work for you.
Pap Smears Are Often Inaccurate
An abnormal pap test does not necessarily mean you have cervical cancer. Pap tests, designed to detect abnormal cervical cells, are wrong between 10 and 60 percent of the time.
A number of factors can affect pap tests results leading to a false positive, including:
- Recent intercourse.
- Using a tampon.
- Taking a bath.
Don’t Expect Telephone Service
Many patients feel inconvenienced by having to make an appointment to renew a prescription. It is important to realize that the appointment is about more than just writing the prescription. It is a chance for the doctor check your vital signs and discuss potential health issues.
From the minute they walk in the exam room, the doctor is assessing everything from your appearance to your behavior to gain insight into your overall health. You should also keep in mind that your doctor doesn’t get paid for phone calls, and no one should be expected to work for free.
Doctors Don’t Like It When They Run Behind Schedule Either
Patients often get upset and blame the doctor when they are forced to wait beyond their appointment time; however, patients are often the cause of the delay. Doctor’s offices do their best to structure an appointment time and duration according to the patient’s reported issue. Unfortunately, it is common for patients to arrive at an appointment for a simple sore throat and surprise the doctor with a laundry list of problems. That means a 10-minute appointment has suddenly turned into 30 minutes.
When you make your appointment, be honest with the scheduler about what you need to discuss. If you have more than two or three issues, it is probably best to schedule more than one appointment.
Please Wash Before Your Appointment
Doctors and nurses see patients on a daily basis who clearly haven’t bathed or smell of urine or worse. These patients may not get the attention they need simply because the smell becomes too overwhelming in a cramped exam room.
Doctors and nurses understand if you aren’t perfectly clean because you came straight from work. They also know that you feel bad and don’t expect you to look your best. On the other hand, health care providers do appreciate basic hygiene.
You Need to Be Honest if You Don’t Take Your Medications
The medications your doctor prescribes only work if you actually take them. They also understand that issues like cost and difficulty remembering to take meds can prevent patients from complying with their medication regimen. You should let your doctor know if barriers are keeping you from taking your medications consistently. They can recommend solutions to make it easier to afford or remember to take your medications.
Please Don’t Diagnose Yourself
The internet if full of useful information regarding health and wellness. It is also full of a lot of misinformation. Without medical training, it can be difficult to separate the good from the bad. A lot of health conditions also share similar symptoms. Without a medical background, it is very easy to arrive at the wrong conclusion. It is best to leave the diagnosing to your doctor who has the knowledge to put symptoms into their proper context.