Share:  
|
PAGE
MENU

How to assess your body weight

What is a "healthy body weight"?

Health Canada has created body weight recommendations based on the evidence linking body weight to health risks such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. "Healthy body weights" are weight ranges that are linked to the lowest risks for these chronic diseases. These recommendations are based on two tools: body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference measurement.

However, many factors affect your body weight, such as your ancestry, cultural influences, the type of work you do, your health, where you live, your income and access to food and physical activities, and the lifestyle choices you make (such as food choices and level of physical activity and so on). Due to these differences, your healthy body weight may be different than your friend's, even if she is your age and height.

In our society female beauty is often reflected by images of "perfect" or "ideal" bodies found in magazines, movies, on TV and the Internet. These images of "ideal" body sizes and shapes change over time because they reflect some peoples' shared ideas about what is beautiful and desirable. Body size ideals such as these are not linked to health and should not be confused with healthy body weights.

Body weight and breast cancer risk

According to experts, maintaining a healthy body weight throughout your life may be the single most important way to protect against cancer. Since breast cancer risk is hormone related, this cancer differs among premenopausal (before the onset of menopause) and postmenopausal (after menopause has occurred) women. Menopause is the stage of woman's life (usually around age 52) when she stops having monthly menstrual periods. While this stage may last one or more years, when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months, menopause has occurred. The most recent and complete review of the research about body weight and breast cancer risk says:

Before menopause:

Higher levels of body fat probably decrease breast cancer risk in premenopausal women-Research linking overall body fat (based on body mass index) and breast cancer risk shows that there is likely a link between higher body mass index values and lower breast cancer risk in premenopausal women. Scientists do not know why higher levels of body fat may protect against breast cancer before menopause. You may be asking yourself, if a premenopausal woman increased her body weight, would she reduce her breast cancer risk? The answer is no. The best advice for women is to maintain healthy body weights both before and after menopause since a higher body mass index increases breast cancer risk after menopause.

After menopause:

  • Higher levels of body fat are strongly linked to higher breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women
    • Research on overall body fat (based on body mass index) and breast cancer risk offers convincing evidence of a link between higher body mass index values and higher breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women. This is not true for premenopausal women.
  • Higher levels of abdominal fat probably increase breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women
    • Research showed that there is likely a link between higher levels of fat around the abdomen (stomach, tummy, or belly) and increased breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.
  • Weight gain as an adult probably increases breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women
    • There is likely a link between higher amounts of weight gained as an adult and increased breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women. Since weight gained as an adult is typically fat, not muscle, adult weight gain increases total body fatness. As noted above, higher total body fat is strongly linked to increased breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.

What does all this mean?

The bottom line is this-achieving and keeping a healthy body weight will support your health before and after menopause.