Help and advice on heart disease
Want to stop smoking?
Stopping smoking is the single best thing you can do for your
Help to stop
Heart Support Groups
Health at Work
Help us keep hearts beating
London to Brighton Night Ride
Use your pedal power to fight against heart
disease – sign up to London to Brighton Night Ride.
Mending Broken Hearts Appeal
Support our groundbreaking research and help us find a cure for
Visit our shops or shop online
Get ready for the London to Brighton bike ride
with one of our new cycling jerseys.
Visit our shop
We'll collect your unwanted furniture and electrical goods
to sell in our stores.
Our pioneering research
Fighting for every heartbeat
Learn how we're fighting for every heartbeat with cutting-edge
Find out more
Apply for a research grant
Apply for a research
Share experiences with others
We're working with UK towns and cities to get communities heart
Find out about Heart Towns
Share experiences, stories, tips and ideas in our community.
Join our online community
Our fight for every heartbeat
The story so far
Explore 50 years of the fight against heart disease and find out
where we're going in the future.
What we do
We fund thousands of research projects around the UK that are
fighting heart disease.
Learn about our
Our free service offers a unique package of support
to improve heart health.
Join now Already a member? Login
Human beings come in all shapes and sizes, but do we
know when our body shapes start to affect our health? Katherine
Bletcher finds out
Living in a world where we’re bombarded with images of extreme
body shapes – from skinny models to obese teens – it can be easy to
lose sight of what a healthy shape is.
If you think that people who are naturally slim don’t have to
try, then think again. Whether they are doing it consciously or
not, slim people eat a controlled number of calories, so they’re
not taking too much energy in. However, even slim people need to
eat healthily and do plenty of physical activity to prevent other
Being a healthy weight has lots of benefits, but if you’re over
40 you should still make sure that you have a
health check at your GP’s surgery, to assess your risk of
developing heart disease.
Being underweight can also be bad for your health. If you eat
too little, your body probably isn’t getting enough energy and
nutrients. This can make you more likely to get ill and get
infections and it will take longer for you to get better. Being
underweight can also increase your risk of fractures and falls.
Where are you carrying weight?
Whether you call it a beer belly, a spare tyre or a muffin top,
extra weight around your middle increases your risk of developing
high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes – even if your BMI is within the
While it’s often assumed that carrying the excess weight puts a
strain on your heart, the main reason abdominal fat affects your
heart is that the fat cells themselves are active, producing toxic
substances that can cause damage. So your shape, and where you
carry your excess fat, are very important – it’s not just about
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to get rid of fat from just one
part of the body. So, although tummy-toning exercises can help with
strength and tone, they won’t necessarily change your waist size.
You need to reduce the fat itself by taking in fewer calories and
doing more physical activity. This can lead to a gradual decrease
in the amount of fat stored all over the body, including on the
waist. It may take a while to see the results, but it will be worth
To maintain a healthy weight and waist size, try:
For more information on managing your shape and weight, download our booklet, So you want to lose weight... for good, or order it by calling 0870 600 6566 and quoting code M2.
For personalised tips on how to improve your lifestyle and look after your heart, you can take our lifestyle check.
Keeping it in the family
While weight does have a genetic element, the view that ‘we’re
all big in my family’ doesn’t have to mean that there’s nothing you
can do about it. While body shapes are passed on through families,
so are cooking, eating and physical
activity habits. Take a step back and look at what your
family’s habits are. There are probably some easy changes that
could help the whole family to have a healthier lifestyle – and
it’s easier if you do it
How do I know if I’m a healthy shape?
Our different shapes make us unique but they can also affect our
risk of heart disease. A good starting point is to measure your BMI
and waist circumference. You can work towards a healthy BMI and
waist measurement by eating a balanced diet and making sure you do
at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week. However, if you
are worried about your weight, you should chat to your GP – he or
she can give you support and advice on what to do.
To measure your waist, find the top of your hip bone and the bottom of your ribs. Place the tape measure about midway between these points and wrap it around your waist. For most people this will be level with your tummy button. For men, your waist should be no larger than 37 inches, and for women, no larger than 32 inches. If you are of South Asian origin, then it’s no larger than 35.5 inches for men and 32 inches for women.
Look in your Heart Matters welcome pack for your tape measure. If you have lost it, call 0870 600 6566 and quote HM02 to order one. Not a member? Why not join for free?
BMI stands for ‘body mass index’. It is a measure of weight in relation to height and is a simple way to work out if you’re a healthy weight.For adults, a BMI over 25 is classified as overweight and a BMI over 30 is obese. You can calculate your BMI here or ask your GP or practice nurse to do it for you.