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The electrocardiogram (ECG) is the most commonly used tool to screen for left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH), and yet current diagnostic criteria are insensitive in modern increasingly overweight society. We propose a simple adjustment to improve diagnostic accuracy in different body weights and improve the sensitivity of this universally available technique.Overall, 1295 participants were included—821 with a wide range of body mass index (BMI 17.1–53.3 kg/m2) initially underwent cardiac magnetic resonance evaluation of anatomical left ventricular (LV) axis, LV mass and 12-lead surface ECG in order to generate an adjustment factor applied to the Sokolow–Lyon criteria. This factor was then validated in a second cohort (n=520, BMI 15.9–63.2 kg/m2).When matched for LV mass, the combination of leftward anatomical axis deviation and increased BMI resulted in a reduction of the Sokolow–Lyon index, by 4 mm in overweight and 8 mm in obesity. After adjusting for this in the initial cohort, the sensitivity of the Sokolow–Lyon index increased (overweight: 12.8% to 30.8%, obese: 3.1% to 27.2%) approaching that seen in normal weight (37.8%). Similar results were achieved in the validation cohort (specificity increased in overweight: 8.3% to 39.1%, obese: 9.4% to 25.0%) again approaching normal weight (39.0%). Importantly, specificity remained excellent (>93.1%).Adjusting the Sokolow–Lyon index for BMI (overweight +4 mm, obesity +8 mm) improves the diagnostic accuracy for detecting LVH. As the ECG, worldwide, remains the most widely used screening tool for LVH, implementing these findings should translate into significant clinical benefit.