High Blood Pressure

Frequently Asked Questions

17. How do I know if I need to lose weight to prevent or control my blood pressure?

Two key measures are used to determine if someone is overweight or obese. These are body mass index, or BMI, and waist circumference.

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of weight in relation to height, and provides an estimate of your total body fat. As your BMI goes up, so do your chances of getting high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health problems.


  • below 18.5 is a sign that you are underweight.
  • between 18.5 and 24.9 is in the healthy range.
  • between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.
  • of 30 or more is considered obese.

See the Body Mass Index Table, available from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

Body mass index (BMI) applies to both men and women, but it does have some limits.

  • It may overestimate body fat in in someone who is very muscular or who has swelling from fluid retention (called edema)
  • It may underestimate body fat in older persons and others who have lost muscle mass.

That’s why waist measurement is often checked as well. Another reason is that too much body fat in the stomach area also increases disease risk. A waist measurement of more than 35 inches in women and more than 40 inches in men is considered high.