Good news: Because women tend to develop heart disease later in life than men do, preventive measures have more time to work their magic, says cardiologist Nieca Goldberg, M.D. These include exercising regularly, eating a diet that's rich in whole foods, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking. To help meet these important goals, start with a few simple moves.
7 a.m. Sprinkle slivered almonds on your cereal. Research shows that these nuts can lower the risk of heart disease by reducing levels of harmful LDL cholesterol. In addition, antioxidants and vitamin E found in almond skins might prevent plaque from forming on artery walls. Bonus points if your cereal is made with whole grains, which help keep blood pressure in check.
8 a.m. Time your toothbrushing session. Recent studies show a strong association between gum disease and heart disease, possibly because unhealthy gums cause systemic inflammation. So don't rush your morning brush. The American Dental Association says you need at least two minutes to clean teeth and gums thoroughly. Use your wristwatch to time yourself or pick a brush with a built-in timer light.
9 a.m. Distance yourself from your destination. People who take at least 5,000 steps during the day (about 30 minutes of walking total) are 40 percent less likely than sedentary people to develop metabolic syndrome, a precursor to heart disease. So wherever you're headed, try parking down the block or in a far corner of the lot, suggests Nanette Wenger, M.D., a cardiologist at the Emory University School of Medicine. A few mini-walks can help you hit the target.
10 a.m. Stand up and stretch. Midmorning is one of most productive times of day, when concentration and focus are at their peak. But don't get too attached to your chair: Prolonged periods of sitting are associated with higher levels of cholesterol -- and an increased risk of heart-related death. Aim to unseat yourself for a few minutes every hour.
12:30 p.m. Keep the junk out of lunch. You already know to eat something made with fresh, whole ingredients -- such as a crunchy green salad topped with grilled chicken and low-fat dressing. Just watch out for the "halo effect." This is the sneaky tendency to overindulge in junk food like chips and soda after eating a virtuous entree. Remember: Heart health doesn't end at the main dish.
2:30 p.m. Nibble a high-fiber, high-protein snack. Great choices include hummus with whole wheat crackers and apple slices with a smear of natural peanut butter. In addition to delivering heart-healthy nutrients, snacks with this nutritional profile sate your appetite better than processed foods like cookies, Dr. Goldberg explains. This makes you less likely to overeat at dinner.
4 p.m. Take a sanity break. Stress often strikes in late afternoon as productive daylight hours dwindle. Don't get frazzled. Take a 10-minute breather and do something relaxing, such as listening to music or e-mailing a friend. "Decompressing in stressful situations brings down your blood pressure and helps you feel more in control," says cardiologist Jennifer Mieres, M.D.
6 p.m. Drink (in moderation). The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than one alcoholic drink per day. At dinner or happy hour, get more bang from your beverage by choosing red wine. It contains antioxidants and compounds such as resveratrol that are associated with lower heart disease mortality.
9 p.m. Power down your gadgets. Surfing the Web, texting on your cell, and watching TV can interfere with sleep by stimulating the brain, so stop screen-based activities about an hour before bedtime. Your heart will thank you, says Dr. Mieres: "Women who get at least 6 hours of sleep every night have less plaque buildup in their blood vessels than women who sleep less."
10 p.m. Hug your family goodnight. A loving touch--whether it's from a massage, a snuggle session, or a good bear hug--spurs the release of oxytocin, a chemical that can bring down blood pressure by enhancing the flexibility of blood vessels, says Dr. Goldberg. How's that for sweet dreams?