You are probably familiar with the oft-quoted statistic that more than 70 percent of American adults are overweight or obese.1 Most people take this stat at face value because it seems accurate. However, have you ever paused to consider how scientists came up with that percentage?
What Is BMI?
As it turns out, weight statistics are calculated using a system known as BMI, an acronym that stands for “body mass index.” BMI is meant to provide a rough estimate of how much fat a person carries in their body. This measurement is useful because it allows medical professionals to assess the health risks their patients might have due to body fat as well as make more appropriate nutrition, exercise and medication recommendations.
How Do I Calculate My BMI?
Anyone can calculate their own BMI and discover their weight range using a formula or online calculator. All you need to know to calculate your BMI is your height and weight. The general formula for BMI is as follows:
Weight (in pounds) / Height (in inches)2 x 703
For example, if you are six feet tall and weigh 250 pounds, your BMI would be:
250 / 722 x 703
0.0482… x 703
Knowing your BMI isn’t helpful without the proper chart to put your results into context. All American adults work off the same chart when it comes to interpreting BMI results. This chart is used by both the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.2
According to our previous example, the person in question would be categorized as obese, regardless of whether they were male or female. Because obese people have a higher risk for certain diseases, this person’s doctor might alter their medical recommendations in accordance with this high BMI.
How Can BMI Help with Fitness Goals?
Your BMI provides an educated guess on whether you’re in a healthy weight range or not. To be most effective, BMI should be taken into consideration alongside factors like blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, tobacco use, level of activity, diet and medical history. All these factors have a significant influence on your overall health, sometimes even more than your weight or percentage of body fat.
In general, a high BMI may indicate an increased risk for the following medical problems:
Heart disease and stroke
High blood pressure
Type 2 diabetes
Colon, breast, kidney, liver, endometrial and gallbladder cancer
Mental disorders like anxiety and depression
Reduced quality of life due to pain and mobility issue
If you know you have a high BMI, you may want to work with a medical professional to reduce your risk of developing these diseases and issues.
Is BMI an Accurate Measure?
Many people recommend taking BMI measurements with a grain of salt, and for good reason. BMI is a simplified comparison between an individual’s body weight and the distribution of body weights for the entire population. It’s based on statistical analysis, not person-centered health care, so BMI can provide an unclear picture of a person’s health if used as a diagnostic tool.
There are several instances where BMI proves to be an inaccurate measure. For one thing, BMI cannot differentiate between weight from body fat and weight from muscle mass. Thus, athletes and fitness enthusiasts tend to get inaccurately high BMIs because they have more muscle than the general population. On the flip side, seniors tend to get inaccurately low BMIs because muscles atrophy with age, meaning they have a larger percentage of body fat.
Demographics like sex and race also complicate things. Women tend to have more fat on their bodies than men, so even if a man and woman have the exact same BMI, the woman may be at higher risk for certain illnesses. Additionally, there are significant differences between how people of different races carry weight, with African Americans carrying less body fat than Caucasians, and Asians carrying more body fat than either group.2
Last but certainly not least, BMI does not account for different body shapes or lifestyles. For example, there is evidence that people who carry fat in their stomach have increased health risks regardless of overall weight. Even if these people are normal or healthy according to BMI, they could face more health risks than someone who is categorized as obese on the BMI chart.
BMI can even be inaccurate as an indicator of general health for some people. Forty-seven percent of overweight people and 29 percent of obese people could actually be considered healthy by measures other than BMI, whereas 31 percent of normal or healthy weight people could be considered unhealthy!3 An obese person who eats and sleeps well, exercises and drinks plenty of water could be healthier than someone who is “skinny fat” and does none of these things.
Improve Your BMI with Express Weight Loss Clinic in Texas
Being overweight or obese can seriously affect your health and reduce your overall quality of life. If you are worried about your current weight or are simply unhappy with the way your body looks, the licensed clinicians at Express Weight Loss Clinic can help.
If you have a BMI of 22 or above, our clinicians can prescribe FDA-approved medications to suppress your appetite or improve thyroid function and help you lose weight. We also offer injections and counseling. This may be just the intervention you need to kickstart your weight loss journey!
Schedule an e-visit online, or simply walk into one of our locations at your convenience. No appointment needed!
Tyler Office: (903) 592-5670
Plano Office: (469) 786-1751