How beneficial is the body mass index (BMI)?

Do you know your BMI? Increasingly, individuals understand theirs, just as they know their cholesterol.

If you don't understand your BMI, you can use a BMI calculator readily available online, including this one at Harvard Health Publishing. All you require is your height and weight. Or, you can determine it yourself, using this formula:

BMI = (Weight in Pounds x 703)/ (Height in inches x Height in inches).

So, now that you understand your BMI, is it worth knowing? What are you going to do with it?

What your BMI indicates

To comprehend what your BMI means, it's beneficial to take a step back and comprehend what it's measuring and why it's determined.

BMI is an estimation of your size that takes into consideration your height and weight. A variety of years back, I remember using charts that asked you to discover your height along the left side and after that slide your finger to the right to see your "perfect weight" from options listed under little, medium, or large "frame" sizes.

These charts originated from "actuarial" stats, computations that life insurance companies utilize to determine your likelihood of reaching an advanced age based upon data from countless individuals. These charts were troublesome to use, and it was never clear how one was to decide an individual's "frame size."

BMI does something comparable-- it reveals the relationship in between your height and weight as a single number that is not based on "frame size." Although the origin of the BMI is over 200 years old, it is fairly new as a step of health.


What's a typical BMI?

A regular BMI is between18.5 and 25; a person with a BMI between 25 and 30 is thought about obese; and a person with a BMI over 30 is considered overweight. If the BMI is less than 18.5, a person is thought about underweight.

Just like the majority of steps of health, BMI is not a perfect test. For instance, results can be thrown off by pregnancy or high muscle mass, and it might not be a good procedure of health for kids or the elderly.

So then, why does BMI matter?

In general, the higher your BMI, the higher the risk of establishing a variety of conditions related to excess weight, consisting of:

  • diabetes
  • arthritis
  • liver disease
  • numerous kinds of cancer (such as those of the colon, prostate, and breast)
  • high blood pressure (high blood pressure)
  • high cholesterol
  • sleep apnea.

Existing estimates suggest that as much as 365,000 excess deaths due to obesity occur each year in the U.S. In addition, independent of any particular illness, people with high BMIs often report feeling much better, both physically and emotionally, once they lose excess weight.

And here's why BMI may not matter

It's essential to acknowledge that BMI itself is not determining "health" or a physiological state (such as resting blood pressure) that shows the presence (or lack) of disease. It is merely a measure of your size. Lots of people have a high or low BMI and are healthy and, alternatively, a lot of folks with a regular BMI are unhealthy. In fact, an individual with a regular BMI who smokes and has a strong family history of heart disease might have a higher riskof early cardiovascular death than someone who has a high BMI however is a physically fit non-smoker.

And after that there is the "weight problems paradox." Some research studies have found that despite the fact that the threat of particular diseases increases with increasing BMI, individuals really tend to live longer, typically, if their BMI is a bit on the greater side.

Should we stop offering a lot "weight" to BMI?

That's exactly what's being asked in the conversation produced by a new study. For this study, researchers looked at how great the BMI was as a single measure of cardiovascular health and found that it wasn't excellent at all:

  • Almost half of those thought about overweight by BMI had a healthy "cardiometabolic profile," consisting of a normal blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
  • About a 3rd of people with normal BMI steps had an unhealthy cardiometabolic profile.
  • The authors complained the "inaccuracy" of the BMI. They claim it translates into mislabeling millions of individuals as unhealthy and likewise neglecting countless others who are actually unhealthy, however are considered "healthy" by BMI alone.Really, this must come as not a surprise. BMI, as a single measure, would not be expected to recognize cardiovascular health or disease; the exact same is true for cholesterol, blood sugar, or high blood pressure as a single step. And while cardiovascular health is important, it's not the only step of health! For example, this research study did not consider conditions that might also be relevant to a private with an elevated BMI, such as liver disease or arthritis.Bottom lineAs a single step, BMI is clearly not a perfect measure of health. However it's still a helpful beginning point for essential conditions that become most likely when an individual is obese or overweight. In my view, it's an excellent concept to understand your BMI. However it's also important to acknowledge its limitations.