Body Mass Index – Gauge Your Waist

Body Mass IndexBody mass index (BMI) is an estimate of the amount of fat in a person’s body. This measurement can be helpful in assessing an adult’s risk of developing certain health disorders associated with excess fat, such as cardiovascular disease, some cancers, high blood pressure, respiratory problems, diabetes, arthritis, and gallstones, among others. Essentially, BMI is a measure of weight in relation to height, and can be calculated as follows: BMI = (weight in pounds) / (height in inches)2 * 703.

In general:

  • A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered healthy.
  • A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight.
  • A BMI of 30 or greater is considered obese.

BMI does have some limitations, and therefore is not always an accurate predictor of health risk. For example, it does not differentiate between muscle and fat, so the BMI of a very muscular and healthy person could fall incorrectly within the unhealthy range. Likewise, BMI might not correctly reflect the amount of body fat in a person who is less than five feet tall, or who has lost muscle mass due to the natural aging process. For most adults, though, BMI is a reliable indicator of whether their weight poses health risks.

Equally important is the location of fat on the body. For example, a person who carries excess weight in his or her waist is more likely to develop health problems than a person who carries excess weight in his or her hips and thighs. Measuring waist circumference is particularly useful in this regard. For an accurate measurement:

  • Stand up straight.
  • Position a cloth tape measure around your bare midsection, just above your hip bones.
  • Hold the tape parallel to the floor and make sure that it is snug, but does not compress your skin.
  • Relax, exhale, and measure.

Health risks increase significantly in women with waist sizes that measure 35 inches or greater, and in men with waist sizes that measure 40 inches or greater – even when the BMI falls within the healthy range. That’s because waist circumference can be an indicator of internal fatty deposits, which can coat the heart, liver, pancreas, and kidneys, and lead to chronic disease.

If you’d like to talk with a doctor about the health risks associated with high BMI or waist circumference, please contact or visit the South Tampa Immediate Care walk-in clinic today.