The body mass index (BMI) has been used for years as one way to gauge health. But how much does it really tell us?
What Is the BMI?
Your BMI is used to determine the amount of fat tissue in your body as opposed to muscle. This calculation will tell you where you fall on the weight spectrum for your height, which can be an indicator of how at risk you may be for certain weight-related conditions.
How Do You Calculate Yours?
Want to know your BMI? It's time to do some math. To calculate your BMI, you put your weight into kilograms and then divide it by your height in meters squared. If you're not ready to break out the calculator, here is a calculator you can use
, courtesy of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, or you can refer to the BMI tables to determine where you fall.
What Does Your Number Mean?
Once you've determined your BMI, it's time to look at what this number indicates. Here are some guidelines to follow for adults:
- Underweight: 18.4 or below
- Normal: 18.5 to 24.9
- Overweight: 25 to 29.9
- Obese: 30 and above
This range may seem small and unforgiving but it's an important number to know. Just to be clear, your BMI doesn't guarantee you will or won't develop a medical condition. It's meant to be a guide to help you refine your lifestyle to work towards optimal wellbeing. Once your BMI has been calculated, your doctor may perform additional tests to determine how it figures into your personal health. After all, the number can mean very different things, especially between someone who is moderately active and an athlete.
Below are some general definitions for each category:Underweight: If your number comes up as underweight, it may be time to start working with a doctor or nutritionist to look at your diet and find what's missing. You'll likely need to up your calorie intake and possibly the range of foods you eat. Being underweight puts you at risk for weak bones, hormonal imbalances, an impaired immune system and strain on vital organs.Normal: If your number falls into the normal range, that's a good thing but it also means you need to keep working to maintain your current weight for continued wellbeing. That means routinely adjusting your routine to keep it challenging and productive for your body.Overweight: If your number puts you in the overweight category, it's time to take charge by making adjustments to your diet and exercise routine. Being overweight increases your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Rework your diet to focus on whole foods, lean proteins and whole grains to provide vitamins and antioxidants. Make sure you burn more calories than you take in with exercise to bring the number down.Obese: This is the final category and the most serious. If your number brings you into this category, working with a physician is key to losing weight safely and effectively to reduce your risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
Maintaining a health weight is crucial for mental and emotional health as well as physical wellness, which is why you need to make sure to do it in a way that teaches you to value your body. Seeking out the advice of your physician as well as a nutritionist, dietitian and/or personal trainer can help you bring your BMI into the desired range and keep it there.
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