What Is The Body Mass Index (BMI)?


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What's Your Body Mass Index? What Does It Mean For You?
By Donovan Baldwin

If you are trying to be healthy and/or lose weight, one term you will hear at some point or another is "Body Mass Index", or BMI. You understand that it seems to be important, but are not sure what it is, what it means, or why you should be concerned about it. In this small article, we are going to try to shed a little light on the following questions:

1. What is Body Mass Index?

2. How is it calculated?

3. What does it mean?

Your body mass index is a simple method of measuring your body fat using height and weight measurements.

The reason for looking at this ratio is that weight alone is not a reasonable measure of fat or health. 

For years, men and women have been looking at height/weight tables and been told that if they were a certain height and weighed a certain weight than they were "overweight" and, by implication, perhaps in some sort of personal potential health crisis.  However, the BMI calculation is what allows an individual or health care provider a means of making a quick assessment of potential health risks.

CALCULATING YOUR BMI

Calculating your Body Mass Index is actually a relatively simple process.  You can calculate your BMI yourself, but you are likely to get a more precise measurement of your health risks if you have it, and other measurements and tests, done by your doctor or at a facility which has the necessary equipment and professionally trained personnel.

To calculate your BMI based simply on height and weight, divide your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared and multiply that answer by 703.  If you are using the metric system, the weight will be in kilograms, and the height will be measured in meters.  The equation is exactly the same (remember to square your height), but there is no need to multiply by 703. 

NOTE: While BMI is a quick method of assessing your present condition and potential health risks, the results still only involve height and weight and do not take other factors into account. For example: A muscular, highly trained athlete in excellent health, i.e. someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime, would seem to be overweight.

As you can see, calculating a person's BMI is simple and it immediately gives a healthcare professional an idea of the individual's potential health risks relevant to the fat on their body.  However, there are still other factors which should be assessed as well.  The athlete mentioned above might have a very small waist, and indeed, we find that the circumference of the waist should also be taken in addition to the BMI calculation itself. 

It is also possible to take some fairly specific fat measurements using calipers and other instruments, as they did when I was in the army.  Also, the BMI calculation should be viewed in the context of the individual's health history, life style, age, sex, smoking, drinking, and other factors.  That is why having these measurements done by trained professionals is important.

For the moment, however, let's just look at our Body Mass Index measurements and see what they mean.

**A BMI of 18.5 is considered as being Underweight.

**A BMI range of 18.5 - 24.9 is considered normal.

**A BMI range of 25.0 - 29.9 is defined as overweight.

**A BMI of 30.0 and above is categorized as obese.

While a bit too complicated to reproduce in a short article such as this, and which may be published on many different sites, there are charts available online which will allow you to add such other measurements as waist circumference to the Body Mass Index calculation in order to get a slightly more accurate assessment of health risk due to being overweight or obese.  A rule of thumb however, is that for men, a waist circumference of more than 40 inches raises the health risk.  For women, a waist circumference of more than 35 inches also raises the risk.

HEALTH RISKS

So, what does a high BMI mean in terms of potential health risks?

While there is no guarantee that obesity, or an overweight condition, in any one individual will definitely result in any specific conditions, it has been shown statistically that there is definitely a correlation between being overweight or obese, and the likelihood of incurring one or more of these conditions as a direct or indirect result:
  • High blood pressure,
  • High cholesterol
  • Type II diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Some forms of cancer
The good news is,  that should you find yourself in one of those categories defined as overweight or obese, other research has shown that a weight loss of just 10% of your current weight will have a definite impact on the health risks you face.

RECOMMENDATIONS ABOUT CONTROLLING BMI

The best way to control your weight and minimize health risks due to obesity or being overweight is through regular moderate exercise and by making wise nutritional choices.  Additionally, a lifestyle which does include regular exercise, as well as healthy eating choices, will produce other positive health changes in addition to the weight loss itself.  Fad diets do not work for permanent healthy weight loss, and diet pills and potions are at best ineffective and can actually be dangerous in some cases.  Some diet regimens may actually result in increased weight and a higher BMI in the long run.

In order to permanently improve your health outlook, take a look at your BMI and use it as a tool to remind you of the lifestyle choices you need to make in order to live a longer and healthier life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Donovan Baldwin
is a 68-year-old amateur bodybuilder and freelance writer living in the Dallas - Fort Worth, Texas area. He is a University of West Florida alumnus, has been a member of Mensa and the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and is retired from the U. S. Army after 21 years of service.  In his career, he has held many managerial and supervisory positions.  However, his main pleasures have long been writing, nature, health, and fitness. In the last few years, he has been able to combine these pleasures by writing poetry and articles on subjects such as health, fitness, yoga, weightlifting, weight loss, the environment, global warming, happiness, self improvement, life and the arts.  He blogs regularly on senior fitness and health at fitness-after-40.ws.

Article Source: What's Your Body Mass Index?  What Does It Mean?

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Body Mass Index
Page Updated 6:38 PM Thursday 3/28/2013