February 28, 2011

American Heart Month: Be Smart with your Heart!

By: Farrah Stewart, Bay Pines Dietetic Intern, Pinellas County Extension

Cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack and stroke, are our nation's #1 killer. Since 1963, in order to urge Americans to join the battle against these diseases, Congress has required the president to proclaim February "American Heart Month."

Why is it important to choose a heart-healthy diet?
Making good food choices can have a big impact on your health and your pocketbook. The cost of treating heart disease and stroke in the United States is expected to triple in the next 20 years, to $818 billion.

Eating a heart-healthy diet can help you to:
  • Lower your blood pressure.
  • Lower your cholesterol.
  • Reach and stay at a healthy weight.
  • Control or prevent diabetes.
  • Improve your overall health.
A heart-healthy diet is not just for people with existing health problems. It is good for all healthy adults and children older than age 2. Learning heart-healthy eating habits now can help prevent heart disease in years to come.

In the News
Omega-3 fatty acids have been gaining a positive reputation lately in regards to heart health and cardiovascular disease prevention; and it’s about time! Since the 1970s, numerous studies have shown that Omega-3 fats may be the heart's best friend. They reduce the risk of heart attack, sudden cardiac death, hardening of the arteries (Atherosclerosis), and stroke. Furthermore, Omega-3s improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduce high blood pressure, make arteries more elastic, reduce plaque formation, and make the heart muscle stronger.

What are Omega-3s?
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that your body needs to function properly. There are animal-based and plant-based Omega-3s. The animal-based Omega-3s EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) can be found in seafood, such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel or shellfish. The plant-based Omega-3 ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is acquired from sources such as walnuts, flaxseed, and canola and soybean oils.

Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, have been shown to benefit the heart of healthy people and those at high risk for, or who already have cardiovascular disease.

Recommended Intake
The American Heart Association recommends that people without documented coronary heart disease (CHD) eat a variety of fish, preferably oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and trout), at least twice a week. Those with documented CHD are advised to consume about one gram of EPA and DHA per day. Consuming fish oil supplements should only be considered by people with heart disease or high levels of triglycerides who consult with their physicians.

Below is a reference table comparing a few common food sources and the amount of Omega-3s they contain.

Food SourceServing SizeAmount of Omega-3s
Flaxseeds2 tbs3.5 g
Walnuts¼ cup2 g
Salmon3 oz1.5 g
Sardines3.25 oz1.4 g
Halibut3 oz0.36 g

For more information on heart health, please visit

February 21, 2011

Buy Green Products and Save

Mary Campbell, Extension Director and Urban Sustainability Agent, Pinellas County Extension

There are many reasons why more and people are buying green products. Recent studies show that even during the recent recession, more people are still interested in green products. Sales of green products, such as organic foods and natural personal care items, have jumped 15 % since 2006, according to research firm Mintel International. Green products have less of an impact on the environment than comparable non-green products. This may mean that the product can be recycled or is made of recycled products, and it may save natural resources, energy and water. It may also have less packaging to save paper or plastic or be a locally produced and sourced product. Local products are considered greener since they do not have to be transported long distances. Green products can also have less of an impact on people since they contain less toxic components or are non-polluting. A less toxic environment supports healthier communities.

Partner environmentally friendly products with cost savings and that is a win-win we all love. Compact fluorescent light bulbs use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs. If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars. That sounds pretty green, but what does Energy Star mean?

According to the Energy Star website, ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. Americans, with the help of ENERGY STAR, saved enough energy in 2009 alone to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 30 million cars, while saving nearly $17 billion on utility bills.

Energy Star is a third party certifier that uses standard criteria to qualify a product as energy efficient. There are third party certifiers for many different products. There is no one certifier for all green products. The best way to know if the product you are considering to purchase is really green, look for a third party certifier. Here is a list of some of the more common certifiers from Business.Gov
Green Seal sets product standards and awards its label to a wide variety of products

• Agriculture, Manufacturing, and Electricity: Certified by Scientific Certification Systems

• Buildings: The U.S. Green Building Council LEED Green Building Rating System

• Chlorine-Free Products: Certified by the Chlorine Free Products Association

• Energy Efficient Products: Certified by the U.S. Government's ENERGY STAR Program

• Organic Produce: Certified by the USDA National Organic Program

• Renewable Energy: Certified by the Green-e Certification Program

• Wood Products: Criteria set by Forest Stewardship Council
If the product you are considering is not certified, check the label yourself and look for these things:
  1. Non-toxic (no Caution, Warning or Danger on the label)
  2. Can be recycled or has recycled content (example: 30% post consumer content recycled paper)
  3. Saves energy or water
  4. Durable and reusable
  5. Made from natural or renewable materials
  6. Produced locally
  7. Healthier for people
Be wise about how you spend your money and look for the win-win combinations of “saves money”, saves planet, and protects people.








February 15, 2011

Leading through the Essential Elements of 4-H

Jean Rogalsky, 4-H Youth Development Agent

The role of volunteers in the 4-H program is well known. How else could the program have survived a century across the United States if not for the multitude of dedicated volunteers? What is lesser known is the amount of research and science involved in training our corps of 4-H volunteers. In addition to the workshops and certifications in project areas available to 4-H volunteers are sessions devoted to how to best run a 4-H program to meet the needs of youth. These sessions are called the Essential Elements of 4-H Youth Development Programs: Key Ingredients for Program Success.

This training program got its start in 1999 when a team of evaluators at National 4-H Headquarters was tasked with defining the critical elements of the 4-H experience. While the team identified eight elements, former Director of Youth Development at National

4-H, Cathann Kress organized and condensed them into four concepts:
  • Belonging
  • Mastery
  • Independence
  • Generosity
Simply put, utilizing these four concepts will create the environment to produce positive results for youth in any 4-H or youth program, whether it is a community club, afterschool program or competitive event. A training curriculum has been developed to teach 4-H leaders and adults bring the Essential Elements to their 4-H club or program.

Let us take a closer look at the four concepts and the elements they contain. While there are references to the 4-H program, any youth organization can employ these concepts and elements within their existing program.

Belonging: A 4-H club should provide a sense of belonging. This sense of belonging is created by a caring adult, and an inclusive environment. This is an environment where all are welcome and feel safe to learn, grow, and make mistakes. The caring adult will nurture an environment where members feel safe physically and emotionally.

Mastery: 4-H members have the opportunity for mastery, especially in areas of their own selection. This usually refers to the 4-H project and the mastery is developed over time. An interested learner is an engaged learner and is motivated to expand and create new learning experiences. Through 4-H, youth can reflex on their mistakes and learn from their experiences.

Independence: 4-H members have the opportunity to see themselves as active participants in the future. By learning to set goals, youth realize they can shape their future by making the choices to reach those goals. While all the elements are important, the opportunity for self-determination is crucial. Youth need to understand they can have an impact on events that shape their future. Once youth realize they can influence their own lives, they can grow into self-directing adults.

Generosity: In 4-H, generosity refers to community service or service to others. Performing voluntary community service is often a way that a youth connects to the community and feels a sense of responsibility or ownership to the area. Service projects, which are part of nearly every 4-H program, open doors to the larger community.

The Essential Elements training took place last week at the Youth Development Institute in Gainesville. This conference was developed and hosted by Florida 4-H and was open not only to 4-H faculty, staff, and volunteers, but other youth development programs as well.

For more information on national 4-H research:

Kress, C. (2004) Essential Elements of 4-H youth Development,