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Body Mass Index (BMI)

Body Mass Index (BMI)

Body Mass Index, commonly referred to as BMI, has become a recognized standard for predicting health risks associated with weight.  BMI is a calculated number based on an persons height and weight, and the higher your BMI, the higher the risk of developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, certain types of cancer, high cholesterol and cardio vascular disease, as well as breathing problems and gallstones.  BMI is broken down into categories ranging from Underweight to Obesity, as defined in the chart following the equations.  There are a few limitations with using BMI as a healthy weight and disease risk predictor, which are also mentioned below.

BMI is calculated using one of the two following equations:
                weight in pounds × 703 ÷ height in inches
                                or
                weight in kilograms (kg) ÷ (height in meters)­­2

Example for a 5’ 10” man weighing 160 pounds (some numbers rounded for simplicity):
                5’ 10” = 70 inches and 702 = 4900
                BMI = 160 × 703 ÷ 4900 = 22.95
                                or
                1 inch = 2.54 cm (centimeters) and 1 meter = 100 cm
                70 inches = 177.8 cm or 1.778 meters and 1.7782 = 3.16
                1 pound = 0.453 kilograms
                160 pounds = 72.48 kg
                BMI = 72.48 ÷ 3.16 = 22.94

Of course there is an easier way to determine your BMI if you don’t want to do the math. You can use the Health Tools calculator on our website here to calculate BMI and other key health related measurements.  Bioelectrical impedance scales are also available that automatically calculate your BMI along with other key health measurements.  Here are a few options available on Amazon.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website has an automatic calculator on their website as along with a quick reference table you can use to quickly determine your BMI.  Here is a link to the calculator: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm.  Here is a link to the quick reference table: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmi_tbl.htm.

The BMI Classifications are as follows:

Classification

BMI

Underweight

Less than 18.5

Normal

18.5–24.9

Overweight

25.0–29.9

Obesity

30.0 or higher

Limitations of using BMI:
People with large muscle mass, such as body builders may have a higher BMI than expected due to the weight of the muscle mass, and BMI cannot be used accurately to determine excess body fat or predict associated disease risk.  BMI is also a poor predictor of older people, or those with immune diseases that may have lost muscle.  In this case, the BMI may be lower than expected due to less muscle mass that has been replaced by fat, thus BMI should not be used to determine body fat.

Waist Circumference is often used in association with BMI to determine associated health risks such as heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), and type 2 diabetes.  Waist circumference is used to determine upper abdominal fat and how fat is stored internally, and is an indicator of central obesity.  Waist circumference should be measured just above the top of the hip bones (iliac crest) on either side of the body.  Men with a waist circumference greater than 40 inches and women with a waist circumference more than 35 inches are at a greater health risk, even when BMI is in the healthy range.  A chart related to BMI and waist circumference can be found on the NIH website at this address: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmi_dis.htm.  

Ultimately, you want your BMI to fall somewhere between 18.5 and 24.9.  If your BMI is outside this range, you should consider a lifestyle change related to your current nutrition and exercise behaviors.  Most physicians will tell you to exercise more and eat better, but what does that mean?  If you are ready to learn more about exercise, nutrition, and how to prepare healthy meals, please contact Serving Healthy. today!

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