Ah, yes, the other “c” word. It actually isn't the bad guy here. In fact, our body needs this stuff to function. Trouble happens when you combine it with a high-fat diet and an inactive lifestyle, plus genetics. “Bad cholesterol (LDL) can block arteries and decrease blood flow, which can result in stroke or a heart attack,” says Dahmer. Everyone over age 35 should get their cholesterol checked via a small blood sample. Start sooner, like age 20, if you suffer from diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure or have a family history of this stuff. “Your total cholesterol level should be less than 200 mg/dL with an LDL under 100 and HDL over 45,” he says. Two ways to improve your overall cholesterol: add soluble fiber (i.e., oat bran, eggplant, okra, barely, beans) to your diet and boost your unsaturated fat intake (i.e., almonds, pistachios).
[See: 7 Spices with Surprising Health Benefits]