The Importance Of Calculating BMI

A healthy body mass index (BMI) is essential to prevent certain health problems from occurring. Body mass index is the amount of body fat a person carries and is determined by dividing weight by height. This can be done using kilograms and meters or pounds and inches. The measurement can help healthcare professionals start a dialogue with patients regarding healthy eating and behavior.


Ready for some math?

The BMI formula differs depending on the unit of measurement. When using the metric system, the weight in kilograms gets divided by the height in meters square. If using centimeters to measure height, divide by 100 to convert the measurement to meters. In the US, pounds get divided by height measured in inches squared, then multiplied by 703 to get the final result. Many online calculators are available for anyone who doesn’t want to do the math by hand.

Interpreting BMI results

Once the BMI is calculated, the result will be a number. This number will fall into 1 of 4 categories referred to as underweight, healthy weight, overweight, and obesity ranges. Any number below 18.5 is considered underweight. Values ranging from 18.5-24.9 are considered a healthy weight. Any number ranging from 25.0-29.9 is overweight, while a result over 30.0 is considered obese.

Factoring in muscle mass

The numerical value of BMI doesn’t always take into account the muscle mass in the body. As adults get older, muscle mass is lost as part of the aging process. Athletes, on the other hand, can have higher BMIs due to higher amounts of muscle. BMI calculations do not take these factors into account. However, muscle mass is essential to evaluate and should be part of the overall conversation about weight and health.

The doctor weighs in

Sometimes a result can just be good general knowledge, but other times additional steps may need to be taken. This is especially true if an individual falls into the underweight or obese categories. A doctor will be able to better explain BMI and what the result means for the patient, so a follow-up appointment can be scheduled based on the results. Doctors can inform patients about any medical conditions associated with specific BMI ranges, like overweight or obesity.

Underweight concerns

Generally speaking, being underweight is not considered healthy. A person may be underweight for many reasons, like a disease or medical condition. The individuals may be malnourished, lacking the proper nutrients and vitamins, or have a poor immune system. Osteoporosis, decreased muscle strength, and feeling tired are other outcomes associated with this BMI range.

Risks of a high BMI

People who are overweight or obese are at higher risk for various health problems. The risk of high blood pressure (BP), high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and stroke all increase with high BMI results. People who are obese are also more likely to experience mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Knowledge is power

Obtaining BMI results can give people insight into overall health, but the measurement should always be discussed with a healthcare provider to get the full picture. Falling into the extreme ranges of underweight or obese can be cause for concern and may require dietary changes. Knowledge is power, and knowing BMI is a great first step to improving overall health.