Stroke Information and Support > Reducing your risk of stroke > Keep a healthy weight and body shape

Keep a healthy weight and body shape



Being overweight puts you at risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, all of which increase your risk of stroke.

Try to be as close as you can to your ideal weight. This is best achieved by controlling your weight through a balance of eating healthily and keeping as active as you can.

Your Body Mass Index (BMI) and your waist measurement are good ways of assessing if your weight is within the normal range.

Body mass index (BMI)

A healthy weight for your height can be calculated using a measurement called body mass index (BMI). It is split into four categories – underweight, ideal weight, overweight or obese.

BMI uses your weight and height measurements to tell if you’re in a healthy weight range or not. Your BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared (m²).

Ideally, you should aim for a BMI in the healthy weight category (18.5 to 25).

 BMI Category
Less than 18.5 Underweight
18.5 – 25 Healthy weight
25 – 30 Overweight
More than 30 Obese

Waist measurement

While BMI is a good way to tell if you are a healthy weight, your shape can also affect your health risk. Fat around your middle can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke or other long-term health problems. You can work out if you are at an increased risk by simply measuring your waist. If you have extra weight around your stomach (‘central obesity’) you are at increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

The table below gives you an idea of how your waist size affects your risk of heart disease, stroke and other health conditions.

Ideal High risk Very high risk
Women Less than 80cm (32 inches) 80cm to 88cm (32 to 35 inches) More than 88cm (35 inches)
Men Less than 94cm (37 inches) 94cm to 102cm (37 to 40 inches) More than 102cm (40 inches)

Note that BMI and waist measurement advice is different if you’re South Asian, African-Caribbean, Black African, Chinese or Middle Eastern. These ethnic groups may be at increased risk of some health conditions at a lower BMI than people from white European backgrounds.

What is the best way of losing weight?

The best way to lose weight is slowly. A gradual weight loss of around 0.5-1kg (1-2lb) a week is recommended. If you lose weight too quickly you will be more likely to put the weight back on again.

Have a goal in mind and make sure you feel positive, supported and prepared for the challenge. Be aware of the habits that have made you gain weight and look for ways to change these in your daily life. Make a plan and set yourself small goals to begin with.

For more information on the benefits of being a healthy weight and tips for managing your weight, see our Essential Guide to Healthy Weight (PDF).