There are a range of measurements, tests and checks used by health professionals to assess many different aspects of our health and wellbeing. You may be familiar with some of these, and you may have had these checks done yourself by a GP, nurse or other health professional.
This page provides you with information and guidance on some of the key health checks that you can do yourself, including how to undertake these tests, how to interpret your results, and further support and information if required.
Keeping an eye on these measures once a year (unless you have been advised differently by a health professional) could help you identify and act early on to decrease your risk of health conditions such as cardiovascular heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer.
Height – Stand with your back to a wall with your heels against the wall and your back straight. With a measuring tape, start from the floor and measure up the wall until you are in line with the top of your head, keeping the tape straight. You might want to ask someone to help you with this to make the measurement more accurate.
Weight – Try to use a reliable weighing scales, one which would give the same reading if you were to weigh yourself a few times over a short time period. Try to weigh yourself at the same time of day. Weight on its own is not a useful indicator of health and therefore it is recommended to use this alongside other measurements only, such as waist circumference and waist to hip ratio.
BMI - Your BMI, or body max index, is essentially a measure of your height to weight ratio. It is widely used as an indicator to determine whether an individual is a healthy weight. Once you have measured your height and weight, you can calculate your BMI using an online tool, such as the NHS BMI calculator. This tool will also provide you with a healthy weight range for your height. Alternatively, you can use the chart below to check your BMI.
Although a useful tool, the BMI cannot tell the difference between excess fat, muscle or bone, nor does it take into account age, gender or muscle mass. It should therefore be considered with other measurements such as waist circumference and waist to hip ratio.
Waist Circumference - Using a measuring tape, measure around your waist from the belly button. Again, ask someone to help with this is necessary.
Hip Circumference - Find roughly the top of your hip bone – this will probably be the widest part of your hips. Place your thumbs on this point and then point your fingers downwards. Using a measuring tape, measure from the tip of your trigger fingers around.
Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR) – This is another measure which can be used to check whether you are overweight and if that excess weight is putting your health at risk. This is calculated by dividing your waist measurement by your hip measurement. This measure is designed to determine how much fat is stored on your waist, hips, and buttocks.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a healthy WHR is 0.9 or less in men and 0.85 or less for women. In both men and women, a WHR of 1.0 or higher can indicate an increased risk for some weight-related health conditions, including heart disease.
The below WHR chart gives a good indication of your health risk based on your result.
|Low||0.80 or lower|| 0.95 or lower
|Moderate||0.81 - 0.85||0.96 - 1.0|
|High||0.86 or higher||1.0 or higher|
Blood Pressure Measurement
Blood pressure refers to the strength or force with which your blood pushes on the sides of your arteries as it’s pumped around the body. Blood pressure is measured using a device called a sphygmomanometer. This usually consists of a stethoscope, arm cuff, pump and dial, although automatic devices that use sensors and have a digital display are also now commonly used.
Your blood pressure will typically be taken by a health professional, however individuals who are required to have their blood pressure checked regularly often have their own digital monitor at home. The NHS website provides further information on home blood pressure monitoring.
Understanding your Reading
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is given as 2 figures:
- systolic pressure – the pressure when your heart pushes blood out
- diastolic pressure – the pressure when your heart rests between beats
The below table can be used a guide:
|Ideal blood pressure||90/60mmHg - 120/80mmHg|
|High blood pressure||140/90mmHg or higher|
|Low blood pressure||90/60mmHg or lower|
High blood pressure is a very common issue and can often be related to unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as not being sufficiently active, an unhealthy diet, smoking, drinking too much alcohol and/or being overweight. Stress and genetic factors can also affect blood pressure. Known as the "silent killer", high blood pressure rarely has obvious symptoms but left unchecked it can increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke and can increase your risk of developing serious long-term conditions such as coronary heart disease and kidney disease.
Anyone with a blood pressure reading of 140/90mmHg or higher should visit their GP where you will likely receive further monitoring to determine a high blood pressure diagnosis. A reading below this level but above 120/80 mmHg could mean you're at risk of developing high blood pressure if you do not take steps to keep your blood pressure under control. It is therefore advised to consider what lifestyle changes you could make to reduce your blood pressure. See our lifestyle advice pages for further advice.
Visit the British Heart Foundation website for more information about the symptoms and treatment of high blood pressure.
Low blood pressure is less common and usually isn’t something to be concerned about, unless you are also experiencing symptoms, such as dizziness, lightheadedness, feeling sick, blurred vision, feeling weak or fainting. The causes of low blood pressure include being very fit and active, genetics, pregnancy, medication or an underlying condition. If you regularly experience symptoms of low blood pressure, it is recommended that you see your GP.
Heart Rate Check
Checking your resting heart rate – how many times your heart beats in one minute at rest – can provide an important insight into your overall heart health. To take your heart rate, ensure that you are completely at rest (having been resting for at least 5-10 minutes beforehand) and simply count the number of times that your heart beats over a 60 second period. Your wrist is usually a good place to place your finger to find a strong pulse.
The average adult has a resting heart rate between 60 – 100bpm. The fitter you are, the lower this is likely to be. If your resting heart rate is consistently above 120bpm or below 40bpm, it might be worth seeing your GP, although it might be that this is normal for you.
The British Heart Foundation provide further information on checking your pulse.
How Healthy is your Heart?
The NHS heart age check will tell you your heart age compared to your real age. Try out this tool for yourself to see what your heart age is, and what this means for the health of your heart. You will need details of your latest cholesterol levels (HDL and LDL). This tool is designed for those aged 30yrs+.
Basic Tests for Fitness, Balance and Endurance
Having good balance is important for your health, not least because it means you are less likely to fall over, but surprisingly, having good balance is also a predictor of future health issues like dementia.
Why not try the following tests with your colleagues or as part of a team challenge with your Health and Wellbeing Champion? You can then revisit these tests to see if you have improved.
- Stand in front of a sturdy chair or table for safety, but don’t hold onto this.
- Cross your arms across your chest.
- Lift one leg off the floor and begin timing.
- Hold this position for as long as you can (up to 30 seconds)
- Stop timing if you have put your foot down, uncross your arms, or lean more than 30 degrees.
- Repeat the test on each leg.
This test can then be repeated with your eyes closed.
The below table can be used to see how your results compare with the average for your age group.
|Age (Yrs)||Eyes Open||Eyes Closed|
|20-29||29 seconds||21 seconds|
|30-39||29 seconds||14 seconds|
|40-49||29 seconds||10 seconds|
|50-59||28 seconds||8 seconds|
|60-69||26 seconds||5 seconds|
|70-79||14 seconds||4 seconds|
If you don’t meet the average results for your age, group you could try these balance exercises to improve your balance. Alternatively, you could just practice doing simple tasks daily on one leg, e.g. brushing your teeth. Aiming to maintain a healthy weight can also help to improve balance and therefore reduce risk of falls.
Chair Sit-Stand Test
- Sit in the middle of the chair.
- Place each hand on the opposite shoulder, crossed at the wrists.
- Place your feet flat on the floor.
- Keep your back straight and keep your arms against your chest.
- When the time starts, rise to a full standing position and then sit back down again.
- Repeat this movement for 30 seconds.
Count the total number of times that you come to a full standing position in 30 seconds. If you are over halfway to a standing position at 30 seconds, count it as a stand.
This test is typically used to assess leg strength and endurance in older adults. The below table can be used to see how your results compare to the average. If you do not fall into these age categories, this can still be used as a guide.
|Men's Result||Women's Result|
|Age||Below Average||Average||Above average||Below Average||Average||Above Average|
|60-64||<14||14 to 19||>19||<12||12 to 17||>17|
|65-69||<12||12 to 18||>18||<11||11 to 16||>16|
|70-74||<12||12 to 17||>17||<10||10 to 15||>15|
|75-79||<11||11 to 17||>17||<10||10 to 15||>15|
|80-84||<10||10 to 15||>15||<9||9 to 14||>14|
|85-89||<8||8 to 14||>14||<8||8 to 13||>13|
A further variation of the sit-stand test includes the same movement, timing how long it takes to stand 10 times. This BBC video explains the test further and discusses the results that you should expect for your age and gender.
Page updated: 08/12/2020 12:40:53