Understanding Your BMI

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Understanding Your BMI

About Adult BMI

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women. BMI provides a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people, but it does not measure body fat directly. It is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems.

A score interpreted as overweight or obesity is determined by the individual's BMI. The table below shows the ranges of BMIs that are used to interpret scores as overweight or obesity. The BMI score interpreted is the weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. The score can be interpreted as follows:

Weight Status

A person with a BMI from 18.5 to 24.9 is classified as having an "acceptable" weight, while someone with a BMI from 25 to 29.9 is classified as being "overweight." A person with a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese (and at risk for developing serious health problems).

How is BMI Used?

Body mass index is a screening tool that can be used to assess the health risks of a person.

The BMI can be used to identify potential weight-related health problems, but it cannot tell whether an individual has a healthy weight. According to the CDC, to determine if BMI is a health risk, a healthcare provider performs further assessments. These assessments may include skinfold thickness measurements, evaluation of diet, physical activity, and family history.

The chart below is a standard BMI chart that identifies both height and weight to determine whether an individual is a healthy weight or if they are underweight or over.

Weight in Pounds

A high body mass index indicates that excess fat may be present and may increase the risk of developing certain medical conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. A low body mass index may indicate a lack of muscle tissue or an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa.

Why is BMI Used to Measure Overweight and Obesity?

BMI is a measurement tool used to determine if someone is overweight or obese. It calculates body mass index by dividing weight in kilograms by height in meters squared.

The BMI can be used to measure the risks of developing obesity-related diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. A high BMI can also indicate other health problems such as sleep apnea and high blood pressure.

How Can Obesity Affect the Health of Adults

In the United States, obesity rates have more than doubled in the past three decades. Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health.

Obesity can lead to a variety of diseases and health conditions, such as:

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Type 2 Diabetes

  • Some cancers (endometrial, breast, colon, kidney)

  • Gallbladder issues

  • Stroke

  • Chronic inflammation and increased oxidative stress

  • Low quality of life

  • Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety and other mental disorders

  • Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning

This increase has been attributed to many factors including increased consumption of food high in calories and low in nutritional value, reduced physical activity due to increased use of technology and transportation, and biological factors.