• Housecall: Coconut oil and weight loss

a coconut cut in half, sitting on a wooden table with a jar of coconut oil or butterTHIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES
Coconut oil for weight loss: Does it work?
Coconut oil is from the dried fruit (nut) of the coconut palm tree. Although it's called an oil, it's essentially solid at room temperature, more like the texture and consistency of vegetable shortening. Coconut oil is widely promoted for weight loss. While the promises sound great, the research is less clear. A few studies have looked at the benefit of coconut oil on weight loss, and results have been mixed. While some studies have reported a decrease in participants' waist size and body mass index, also called BMI, others have not. Here's what you need to know.

Boot camp workout: Is it right for you?
The goal of a fitness boot camp is to provide a whole-body workout that builds strength and endurance. Fitness boot camps often appeal to people looking for a more intense workout. If you have a strong foundation of strength and aerobic training, you're probably ready for boot camp. However, the exercises usually involve ballistic, rapid movements that can be too challenging for those who aren't already in shape. Learn more about fitness boot camps and whether one might be right for you.

Can a 'polypill' prevent or treat heart disease? 
The term "polypill" describes a pill that contains a combination of several medications commonly used to treat heart disease and high blood pressure. Polypills aren't sold in the U.S. Research shows some benefits to this treatment, but there drawbacks, as well. Learn more from Dr. Rekha Mankad, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist.

Are free blood pressure machines accurate? 
Public blood pressure machines, such as those found in pharmacies, may provide helpful information about your blood pressure, but they may have limitations. The accuracy of these machines depends on several factors, such as a correct cuff size and proper use of the machines. Learn more from Dr. Sheldon Sheps, an emeritus Mayo Clinic hypertension and peripheral vascular diseases specialist.

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Split pea soup
Curried carrot soup
Beef and vegetable stew
Potato soup with apples and Brie

Step it up with an activity tracker
To get started, wear your activity tracker throughout the day for about a week. Add up the total number of steps and divide by seven. This is your baseline. From there, you can start setting short-term goals, such as adding 1,000 steps a day. A long-term goal may be walking 10,000 steps a day. For about $10 to $50, you can buy a basic pedometer and begin counting your steps. An activity tracker may cost two to three times that amount.

Need practical advice on diet and exercise? Want creative solutions for stress and other lifestyle issues? Discover more healthy lifestyle topics at mayoclinic.org.

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