September 12, 2019 by Muriel Sommers
Your BMI and What to Make of It
A person’s BMI, or “body mass index,” has been gaining prominence in the national conversation about ideal weight and how it ties into overall health.
A BMI of 18.5-24.9 is considered the “normal” range for weight, while a calculation between 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight. And a 30 BMI or higher is considered “obese.”
A BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. BMI does not measure body fat directly, but research has shown that BMI is moderately correlated with more direct measures of body fat obtained through more precises testing, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Body fat can be determined by skinfold thickness measurements, bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), densitometry (underwater weighing), dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and other methods.
“You can’t use absolute weight as a criteria (for obesity or being overweight),” explains Ronald Tolchin, D.O., medical director of the Baptist Center for Spine Care. “You need to look at a person’s height and their weight together, and we call this measurement the BMI. So 200 pounds on someone that is 6-foot-5 tall might be okay, but that weight on someone that’s 5-foot-8 would not be okay.”
A BMI often serves as a starting point, since a healthy weight is not just about one measurement. If you fall under the overweight or obese BMI categories, your doctor will likely conduct more in-depth testing, which takes into account any other underlying health numbers, including those tied to blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.
BMI is inexpensive and easy to use, and it establishes a reliable weight category for physicians, dietitians and physical trainers who assist individuals in weight management and reducing risk factors for heart disease and other common conditions.
Deepa Sharma, D.O., a family medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care, stresses that patients need to establish a good rapport with their doctors and support staff and commit themselves to lifestyle changes to avoid chronic diseased tied to being overweight or obese.
“You have to be willing and able to accept whatever the results … that they’re might be a risk for diabetes, or high cholesterol or heart disease, or high blood pressure … and be willing to want to make a change,” says Dr. Sharma.
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
“As a physician, I feel that the accountability portion is really important, and that includes coming in for those follow-up visits and not cancelling your appointment because you’re afraid that you didn’t meet your goal. Being accountable is about allowing us to support you and to remind you to stay on the right track. That’s all very important.”
To calculate your BMI, the CDC offers a calculator.