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Speak Up During Check-Ups

For many of us, going to the doctor's office isn't exactly what we look forward to. We drag our feet to make the appointment, and when we finally get there, we downplay symptoms or anxious feelings that we may have been experiencing.

But being coy with your doctor could do more harm than good when it comes to your health.

For many, being truthful about our sex life, alcohol use, high anxiety levels, or battling depression may be embarrassing and uncomfortable to talk about. Bu this kind of information can help a doctor diagnose you better, and prescribe the right drugs that wont' have adverse effects.

"Early Show" Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton gave us a few reasons why honesty is always the best policy - even if it makes you blush.

A majority of patients will understate the amount they really smoke and drink. But keeping a secret like this to yourself can affect the medications a doctor would prescribe, such as antihistamines and alcohol.

Ashton explains that you want to talk about smoking and drinking habits openly because doctors need to help you be on the lookout for symptoms of dependency or possible side effects on your health. This information is vital when it comes to running tests and diagnosing a patient properly and accurately.

Many of us take supplemental vitamins or use alternative medicine. And though your doctor may not ask this, it is information you should volunteer. According to a survey by AARP and NCCAM (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine), two-thirds of people aged 50 and older use some form of complementary or alternative medicine but only one-third of those people actually tell their doctors.

Ashton explains that by telling your doctor, you can give them a bigger picture of your health and daily routines. This can also help you sidestep potential drug interactions if they prescribe a specific treatment or medication.

There's a reason why our personal lives are so private - because it can be uncomfortable to share such intimate information. But doctors need to know the truth about your sexual history, so in this case, it is more than appropriate to kiss and tell.

As a gynecologist, Ashton tells us how important it is to know how many partners a patient has had so they can approach screenings for your sexual health differently.

For example, the new Pap guidelines say that if you are at low risk (meaning have had very few sexual partners) then you can go three years in between pap smears, but if the number of sexual partners is higher, then pap smears are required more frequently.

Both women and men are more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases as the number of their sexual partners increase. Doctors need to know the honest truth so they can help do the necessary and proper screenings to protect you from HIV, hepatitis, and other STDs.

Finally, many of us are embarrassed to tell our doctors that we did not follow orders. Whether it is not finishing off your prescribed antibiotics or glossing over the fact that you often forget to take daily medications, let your doctor know.

When your doctor asks you if you are taking your birth control right, don't nod your head and say yes when you know you often forget and have to double up pills a couple times a month. Doctors can use this information and help you find a different method of contraception that may be more suited for you.

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.

So find a doctor you are comfortable with. Research has shown that patients who have good relationships with their doctors tend to be more satisfied with their care and have better results.

Share information with your doctor-don't wait for them to ask you everything. If it is your first time meeting a new physician, bring a "health history" log and keep it up to date.

And don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be embarrassed that you didn't understand the instructions or that you are a little baffled by the medical terms. Doctors might assume that you understood prescription directions and warnings unless you tell them that it was confusing for you.