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What poor sleep habits can do and primary care discrimination: In health news today

sleep, insomnia

Robert Terrell/Flickr Creative Commons

A streak of poor sleep can have a dramatic effect on the inner workings of the human body, say researchers, even if it only lasts a week.

In today's health news:

For a study appearing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers called the offices of primary care doctors and read off one of four scripts: One indicating they were wealthy and another indicating they were low-income; and one indicating they had a chronic health problem and another indicating they didn't. They found that patients who were wealthy and patients who reported chronic health problems were more likely to get appointments than their counterparts.

Another study on primary care doctors found that they often miss diagnoses, reports HealthDay. Of 190 cases of diagnostic error, researchers found that 68 of them went under the doctor's radar completely – these are conditions like pneumonia, congestive heart failure and even cancer. Eighty percent of the errors, the study noted, were due to breakdowns in communications between patient and doctor.

Only 15 percent of parents in a new poll said their kids were a little or very overweight, says the Los Angeles Times – and with a nationwide child obesity of rate of about 33 percent, that's low. Only one in five children were found to have grown up in a household where someone was keeping an eye on the child's weight.

A program called Prime Time is intended to reduce pregnancy risk among teenage girls, and a new study appearing in JAMA Pediatrics says it's working. Prime Time focuses on changing certain "psychosocial" attributes in the girls that are linked to risky sexual behaviors; after two years in the program, the girls reported "significantly more consistent" use of contraception.

More men are becoming nurses, reports a new study, with the proportion of registered male nurses jumping from 2.7 percent in 1970 to 9.6 percent in 2011. USA Today adds that while women make up the vast majority of the nursing workforce, male nurses tend to earn more – a yearly average of $9,600 more, to be precise.

A streak of poor sleep can have a profound effect on the human body, says new research, and can even have genetic effects. The BBC says researchers had people follow two sleep schedules: one week of nights where they got 10 hours of sleep every night, and another week where they slept six hours or less each night. The shift was found to affect more than 700 genes and disturb the natural body's clock, as well as impact the immune system and the way the body responded to stress.

Eating disorders aren't limited to any one gender – ABCNews.com reports that although men comprise about a third of those with eating disorders in the U.S., they often have a much more difficult time getting help.

The chief scientist of the Food and Drug Administration spoke with U.S. News & World Report about the challenges posed by the past flu season, including an initial vaccine shortage when the virus struck early and intensely.

If you're taking vitamin D and calcium supplements to strengthen your bones, a federal panel of experts has news for you: Science World Report says the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has confirmed its recommendation against taking these vitamins to prevent bone fractures, since there's not enough evidence that it does anything. The panel noted that people who are taking the supplements at the behest of their doctor should continue to do so.

Diabetics who take the newest kind of drug to control their blood sugar are twice as likely to be hospitalized for pancreatitis, says a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine. The drugs, which are sold under the brand names Januvia and Byetta, are used by millions of Americans, and researchers said "important safety findings may not have been fully explored."

They're called the "worried well" – they worry about being sick, even though medical tests show that they aren't. HealthDay says they ask their doctors for tests they don't need – and perhaps more surprisingly, the doctors order them, hoping to reassure the patient. Researchers said doctors should "indulge patients only in testing that is of real potential value," especially in light of how much these tests can cost.

And finally: Lending more credence to the notion that it's better to give than it is to receive, the Los Angeles Times reports on a study that says high school students who volunteered tended to have lower body weight and better cholesterol levels than their counterparts who didn't.

Photo by Robert Terrell via Flickr Creative Commons.

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