June 13, 2021 by Bethany Rundell
What is Your Healthy Weight?
A healthy weight is one that is a good fit for your body type after considering risk factors for underlying conditions — and it’s commonly based on your body mass index (BMI) and the size of your waist.
But even a BMI, which has become a widely used tool, doesn’t tell the whole story for many people. At an individual level, a BMI can be used as a screening tool, but it should not be considered a stand-alone diagnosis of body fatness.
A primary care physician should perform appropriate clinical assessments to come up with a person’s overall health status, and then determine how weight plays a factor.
For example, someone with a high BMI would undergo further assessments to see if the additional weight is a health risk.
“Certainly, keeping track of your weight is very helpful, but following up with your doctor and getting regular check-ups is even more important,” says Baptist Health Medical Group doctor Natalie Sanchez, M.D., from Baptist Health Primary Care in Kendall. “If you are overweight or obese, then figuring your BMI and waist size, or simply tracking your weight, can serve as motivation and help your doctor monitor your progress.”
Knowing Your Healthy Weight is Vital
With the U.S. obesity rate still climbing and the prevalence of added-sugars in processed foods raising alarm bells, knowing your healthy weight has become as important as knowing other risk factors, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar readings.
Many studies have shown that being obese or overweight increases the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems. But losing weight and keeping it off can help reduce risk factors and keep heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other diseases at bay.
Individuals who have excessive abdominal fat should consult with their doctor to develop a plan for losing weight.
Overall, “underweight”, “normal”, “overweight”, and “obese” are the labels used according to ranges of weight. But they are just labels, says Dr. Sanchez.
“These categories help identify body types, but they’re just a starting point for treating weight-related health conditions,” says Dr. Sanchez. “Regular exercise and proper nutrition can help fight heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and chronic conditions as we get older.”
A BMI does not measure body fat directly, but research has shown that it usually correlates to direct measures of body fat. The BMI’s biggest advantage: it’s an inexpensive and easy-to-use method of screening for weight categories.
The correlation between the BMI number and body fatness is fairly strong, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But the correlation varies by sex, race, and age. These variations include the following CDC examples:
- At the same BMI, women tend to have more body fat than men.
- At the same BMI, older people, on average, tend to have more body fat than younger adults.
- Highly trained athletes may have a high BMI because of increased muscularity rather than increased body fatness.
- If your BMI is less than 18.5, it falls within the “underweight” range.
- If your BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, it falls within the “normal” or Healthy Weight range.
- If your BMI is 25.0 to 29.9, it falls within the “overweight” range.
- If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the “obese” range.
The CDC gives this example: A person with a height of 5 feet, 9 inches would fall into the “normal” weight range if he or she weighs between 125 pounds and 168 pounds. But if this same individual weighs between 169 pounds and 202 pounds, he or she is classified as “overweight.” If the person weighs over 203 pounds, he or she is categorized as “obese.”
For adults over 20 years of age, the BMI is interpreted using these standard weight categories that are the same for all adults, both men and women. For children and teens, however, BMI is both age- and gender-specific. For more information, see the CDC’s Child and Teen BMI Calculator.
Weight and Risk Factors
Individuals who are overweight and obese are at increased risk for many diseases, including the following listed by the CDC:
- Dyslipidemia (for example, high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides)
- Type 2 diabetes
- Coronary heart disease
- Gallbladder disease
- Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
- Some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)