Q&A with dr. Ellis
February is American Heart Month — the time of year when many people look to make a fresh start with their health, as they long for a return to warmer weather. While few can afford to travel to a Mediterranean country to beat the winter blues, anyone can take advantage of the “Mediterranean diet,” renowned for its heart-healthy and spirit-lifting benefits.
Our physician, Dr. Scott Ellis, M.D., offers tips on diet, exercise, and health screenings to benefit your heart.
OMH: What types of medical screenings are important for heart health?
Dr. Ellis: We suggest screenings for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. If you get those three screenings, you’ll be off to a good start when it comes to heart health.
OMH: How does high cholesterol affect heart health?
Dr. Ellis: Cholesterol is attracted to damaged blood vessels, so when damaged vessels get clogged up with cholesterol, that can lead to heart attacks. We know smoking damages blood vessels, so we always suggest people quit smoking. There’s also research showing inflammation can damage blood vessels.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are numerous causes of hidden inflammation — stress, inadequate sleep, nutritional deficiencies, and a diet high in processed foods.
OMH: Are there ways to undo the damage?
Dr. Ellis: Actually, we’ve started recommending resveratrol, a natural antioxidant. Some research has shown resveratrol could be linked to a reduced risk of inflammation and blood clotting, both of which can lead to heart disease. You can get resveratrol in red wine, or in a supplement form.
The Mayo Clinic reports resveratrol might be the key ingredient in red wine that helps prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces “bad” LDL cholesterol and prevents blood clots. Taking one 500 mg capsule of resveratrol daily with food may help you maintain a strong, healthy heart.
OMH: What about diet and exercise?
Dr. Ellis: We strongly recommend regular aerobic exercise and a low-fat diet. The one diet that’s been shown to help people survive the longest is the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes getting most of your proteins from legumes — beans, for instance — rather than meat; using olive oil; and cutting out a lot of concentrated sweets.
A recent study of more than 1.5 million adults showed that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of overall and cardiovascular mortality, a reduced incidence of cancer and cancer mortality, and a reduced incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
“Most major scientific organizations encourage healthy adults to adapt a style of eating like that of the Mediterranean diet for prevention of major chronic diseases,” states the Mayo Clinic.
The Mediterranean diet features olive oil as the primary source of fat. Olive oil can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels, and “extra-virgin” and “virgin” olive oils — the least processed forms — also contain the highest levels of the protective plant compounds that provide antioxidant effects.
Dr. Ellis: To see results, you don’t have to go overboard. Make the changes you can stick with. I like to give patients options — at Onslow Primary Care, we emphasize a collaborative approach with the patient. We like to focus on getting to the underlying health issues and help the patient make lifestyle changes before turning to medication.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:
• Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes (such as green peas, green beans, black beans, kidney beans), and nuts
• Replacing butter with virgin or extra-virgin olive oil
• Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
• Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
• Eating fish, like salmon, mackerel or sardines, at least twice a week
• Drinking a glass of red wine with dinner (optional)
Onslow Primary Care is an affiliation of Onslow Memorial Hospital. Dr. Scott Ellis, M.D., earned his Medical Degree from East Tennessee State University. After completing his medical training, Dr. Ellis practiced family medicine in Charlotte before returning to Jacksonville to open Onslow Primary Care & Sports Medicine. He is board certified in Family Medicine. To make an appointment, call us at (910) 219-1713.