From the Heart and Stroke Foundation

Traditionally there has been only one way to assess your weight, the scale. But the amount you weigh doesn't necessarily tell the whole story. Today, there are other methods of self-assessment that may give you a clearer picture of how your weight may be affecting your health. The methods include taking your waistline measurement and calculating your Body Mass Index (BMI).

Are you an apple or a pear?

Where you carry your weight could be even more important than how much weight you carry. A large waistline may be a greater risk to your heart health than extra weight on the hips and thighs. People who have apple-shaped bodies are more likely than those with pear-shaped bodies to have high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and an increased risk of diabetes. Any of these conditions increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.


Measure your waist

The best way to find out if your waistline is increasing your risk of heart disease is to measure it. Here's how:
  • Take your measurement while standing upright
  • Inhale and exhale, letting out all the air in your lungs. Breathe normally.
  • Place the tape around your waist, between the bottom of your ribs and the top of your hipbones.
  • Hold the tape firmly but don't press in.
  • Make sure the measuring tape is parallel to the floor to avoid a misreading.
  • Take the reading.

If you're a man and your waist measures more than 102 centimetres (40 inches) or a woman more than 88 centimetres (35 inches), you are at increased risk of developing health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. For persons of Chinese or South Asian descent, you are at increased risk if you are more than 90 centimetres (35 inches) for men or 80 centimetres (32 inches) for women.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

The BMI is a ratio of your height and weight. It applies to ages 18 through 65, except if you're pregnant, breastfeeding or very muscular.
  • Find your BMI by using the BMI Chart.
  • Or calculate BMI yourself. Divide your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres.
  • Or, using pounds and inches, multiply your weight by 703, divide by your height, then divide by your height again.

(Source: Health Canada. Canadian Guidelines for Body Weight Classification in Adults. Ottawa: Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada; 2003.)

If your BMI is

  • between 18.5 and 24.9, you're at lowest risk of developing health problems.
  • between 25 and 29.9, you're considered overweight.
  • 30 or more, you're considered obese.

Last reviewed February 2008.

Heart and Stroke Foundation


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This article has been independently researched, written and reviewed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and is based on scientific evidence. The information is for reference and education only. This web article is not intended to be a substitute for a physician’‘s advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should consult your physician for specific information on personal health matters. The Heart and Stroke Foundation assumes no responsibility or liability arising from any error in, or omission of, information or from the use of any information or advice contained within this article.

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© - 2008. Reproduced with permission of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada