I’ve been doing a bit of learning or Continued Professional Development on the topic of heart disease, and heart health. I was immediately grabbed by this podcast episode featuring this really interesting guy, Dr. Mohammed Alo.
Dr. Alo is a board-certified cardiologist, certified personal trainer, and natural teacher! He specialises in breaking down complicated medical concepts into an easy-to-understand format. All of his information is research-backed and science-based. As you’ll see from the podcast, Dr. Alo is passionate about health, fitness, diet, nutrition, and weight loss.
What I was very interested to learn from the podcast was the effects cholesterol has on the health of the obese and unfit when compared to normal weight and fit people. It’s counter to what we’ve been led to believe throughout the media over the years, but dietary cholesterol is not a problem on its own.
Saturated fats raise cholesterol but Dr. Alo, explains that this is nothing to worry about if you’re fit and not overweight. This is because leaner and more fit people aren’t badly harmed by higher cholesterol. Dr. Alo states, “You can get away with more”. It’s still not as good as eating healthy if you’re a fit person. He goes on to say that research shows that saturated fat doesn’t significantly increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol or cause cardiovascular disease in fit people in the same way that it does in unfit and overweight people.
At the other end of the scale, overweight people are at higher risk of heart attack if they eat a lot of the saturated fats that go on to develop LDL cholesterol.
This was backed up by a study that showed people who are either normal weight/overweight but are unfit had a 2 times more cardiovascular mortality risk. However, those who are overweight and fit are less likely to be a victim of cardiovascular disease mortality. This is still not as optimal as being at a normal healthy weight and fit though. Regardless of your current weight, fitness levels count for a lot in cutting your risk factor. It may seem a bit obvious but it’s always good to see that the studies agree.
Dr. Alo went on to cite a long-term project conducted in the area of North Karelia, Finland. It is notable because it had the highest rate of cardiovascular disease mortality in the world in 1973 with 700 out of 100,000. To combat this the Government put in a lot of public health measures to reduce smoking and improve eating habits. It was understood that it was going to take over 30 years to get to where they needed to be, but it worked. When they started the campaign on average 23% of calories came from saturated fat and by its conclusion, this dropped down to 10%. They reduced cardiovascular mortality by almost 84% to 100 in 100,000. This was attributed to a drop in smoking and saturated fat intake. From a coach’s perspective, it’s good to hear about a case where Government intervention made a significant health impact.
I’d love to see a sustained plan to tackle the health issues in Scotland, particularly in the areas of nutrition and alcoholism. Perhaps a patient approach like this one in Finland would get far better results than sugar taxes and advertising bans.
Dr. Alo’s top recommendations to improve overall heart health start with quitting smoking. This will reduce the chance of heart attack by 20 times. Getting as close to your ideal body weight as possible reduces by 10 times. Lowering LDL to below 57 would reduce your chance of cardiovascular mortality to near zero.
In agreement with our recommendations here at DMC Fitness, Dr. Alo promotes the ‘You’ diet. He advocates the eat what you like to eat approach. But goes on to say, “eat less of it if you’re gaining weight”. He dispelled the, “It’s genetic, all my family are overweight.” myth, saying that most of the time it is inherited bad eating habits that are to blame. He said that of all the people he’s tried to help probably only 100 out of around 5000 have lost the weight and kept it off. From a coach’s perspective, this is disheartening to hear but I have to agree with Dr. Alo, that everyone that we’ve helped get fitter, “wanted it.”
Dr. Alo’s recommended exercise is resistance training because it increases muscle mass and research shows that you’re more likely to recover from illness if you have high muscle mass. Plus, it is more efficient for weight loss than cardio with the bonus of increasing your calorie requirements (so you can eat more). This is something that I agree with. Sometimes I love cardio but most of our clients are at an age or fitness level where they struggle with it. Whereas resistance training can not only improve heart health and also build muscle and strengthen bones while improving movement to the point where cardio can be possible.
Dr. Alo points out that adopting healthier eating habits is the most effective way to lose weight and that exercise is more effective at keeping it off. He also points out that those at the extreme end of the obesity scale won’t be able to exercise and dieting is the only option. Dieting alone isn’t optimal as it will result in more muscle loss but it can get them down to a weight where resistance training can be possible.
I think the real takeaway from Dr. Alo’s message is that there’s always a route out of being unfit and unhealthy, no matter what weight and health complications that you may have, but you’ve got to want to change. If you’re ready to fall in love with fitness and want it bad enough you’ll only improve your chances of avoiding heart disease. If I can just add my thoughts, you’ll not only live longer but also enhance the rest of your life’s experience.
These are only the highlights from the podcast. I recommend that you watch/listen to the full thing for far more quality information.
Until next time, “Strength for Life”
Davie McConnachie is Scotland’s leading health and wellness coach, multi-award-winning gym owner, motivational speaker, and the founder of DMC Fitness, a fitness education facility known as the premier choice for 1-2-1 personal training. He has inspired thousands of people to fall in love with fitness – his true mission in life.
In his own fitness journey, Davie has athletically competed in Mixed Martial Arts fighting for Scottish and British titles, boxed for Scotland’s top amateur boxing team, and competed internationally in Girevoy (kettlebell) Sport.
Diving into the world of sports and wellness has helped Davie to deal with his own inner demons. He. overcame many dark times using his own unique method to complete his cycle of H.E.A.L.I.N.G.