Sitting in your doctor’s office being told that you have elevated cholesterol can feel like a big blemish on an otherwise good bill of health. But you aren’t alone — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in three Americans are plagued with high cholesterol, a risk factor that significantly plays into your prospects of developing heart disease in the long run. A diet high in cholesterol can also influence your risk of stroke, but presents no signs or symptoms beforehand, which is why strokes can feel so sudden and unexplained. How can you get ahead of the curve, you might ask? It’s all about adding more foods that are rich in good sources of cholesterol — not all cholesterol is the same, in fact! — and finding foods that can cut how much cholesterol you’re eating elsewhere.
First, a quick explainer: Cholesterol is a waxy substance that travels through your bloodstream, but not all of it is bad. HDL cholesterol (also known as. “good” cholesterol) actually sweeps away LDL cholesterol, or what’s commonly referred to as the “bad” kind. A high LDL level puts you at risk for heart attacks and strokes because it can clog arteries with plaque, a condition called atherosclerosis. A blood test can determine whether you have high cholesterol, and your doctor may recommend exercise or medication in addition to a healthier diet.