Saturday, November 5, 2011

Day 1264: Studying and cholesterol

Hello. My name is Jessica. I have a biochemistry exam on Tuesday. I am taking a short break from studying to tell you how much school sucks. For those of you wondering how I am faring lately, I hope every post since August 15th has expressed how dastardly medical school is. It is mind-boggling, soul-crushing and generally not fun. There is way too much detail requested of me. I am, of course, learning it, because I, of course, need to pass so that I may, of course, actually become a doctor. Don't go to medical school. Do something else that will make you the same amount of money (let's be real, doctors make some decent cash) without lives at stake! Lives that are not your own!

Okay, enough boring school talk. Onto more fun science talk.

I want to talk to you about Lipitor.

My dad (hi Dad!) takes Lipitor. Lipitor is a statin. A statin is a thing (very scientific term, I know) that blocks an enzyme (called HMG-CoA reductase). When HMG-CoA reductase is blocked, the rest of the reaction (cholesterol synthesis) no longer occurs. Therefore, to make this painfully simple, Lipitor prevents your body from producing more cholesterol, which is why Lipitor/statins are prescribed to those getting on in years to lower their cholesterol.

While studying with a friend yesterday, we were talking about how doctors today probably know this much about Lipitor. What we know is infinitely more detail than that. I can tell you what steps afterwards are no longer occurring and I can tell you why statins are useful but may not be necessary for every human being on the face of the planet over the age of 50. So, what I'm trying to say is, I know more about cholesterol right now than a practicing MD does! Ha! I am smart! (...for about a day. That will pass. Wait for it.)

So as to make you feel as smart as me (which won't be very hard since my intelligence level is on the same level as that of a peanut), I want to tell you about cholesterol.

Cholesterol is necessary in all of your cell membranes. All this means is, in order for them to not be rocks tumbling all over each other, we have cholesterol in our membranes to make it more fluid...more like a bunch of water balloons together in a bucket. The cholesterol levels that doctors freak out about are LDL (Low Density Lipoproteins).

The main reason this is bad is if this stuff circulates in your blood too long (aka too much LDL floating around), it starts to deposit things into your blood vessels (aka arteries) and they start to form plaques (mainly a pretty science word for "road blockage" or "things that shouldn't be piling up"). Plaques are bad. Just like a pot hole (except invert that (so that it's popping up like a hill and less like a hole, so "pot hill" is better) and that's what you have in your blood vessels), things go awry when blood can't flow properly. Too much LDL floating around in your system is a primary cause of high blood pressure and other bad news bears, as well as essentially putting money into the pockets of Pfizer (the drug company that makes Lipitor).

Look. Let's make this clear. I am not a doctor. I am nowhere near being a physician. What I am is a medical student who has to study this stuff like mad to make sure she aces her exam on Tuesday. So, you should believe most of what I say because I have to know this stuff for the next 72 hours. With that disclaimer, statins are great but not necessarily worth the hype. They prevent your body from making cholesterol, which is the precursor for all these lipoproteins (a fancy science word for cholesterol that flows around in your blood, it includes LDL (bad!) and HDL (good!)). Your body needs cholesterol. And research shows (just check Wikipedia. You know that stuff is real then ;P) that statins may not actually be needed. They just help certain populations. I'm not telling you, Dad, to get off Lipitor. I am just trying to show a) I know things and b) if you maintain a better diet (put down that fifth bowl of 豆浆  and that third serving of 榴莲) you wouldn't need things like Lipitor to lower your blood pressure.

Again. I don't know anything. I just know what my boring Biochem professor(s) has taught me. Granted, they didn't give me (and therefore you) this opinion of statins. This is just what I have managed to figure out on my own.

So. The moral of this awfully long post is: I know things about cholesterol (see the above paragraphs). I dislike medical school (see the first paragraph). Medical school is hard (see the first paragraph). I have a test on Tuesday. I should go.

Before I do. MOM. DAD. I am sick. (subliminal message Send me a care package subliminal message)