Body mass index is a statistical standard used to determine the amount of body fat that you may have using your height and weight.
The body mass index (BMI) may be traced all the way back in the 1830's although it gained popularity only in 1972 when a study found it to be the best alternative method in identifying weight problems using ratios of weight and height.
The World Health Organisation has been using body mass index as its standard for analysing and presenting obesity statistics since the early eighties. Aside from obesity, BMI is used as a diagnostic tool for identifying anorexia nervosa, underweight, normal and overweight cases. For most individuals, BMI is a weight control tool.
While BMI may be considered a reliable indicator of total body fat, it may overestimate body fat in athletes or those who possess a muscular build and underestimate body fat in older persons and others who have lost muscle mass.
How to Calculate Body Mass Index
You can manually calculate your BMI using a simple formula by dividing your current weight in kilograms by your height in metres. BMI charts and calculators are also available in print and online. While you may compute your own BMI using online calculators and charts, a health professional may have to perform other assessments to confirm if your BMI poses health risks to you.
Aside from measuring your BMI, your health professional may check your skin-fold thickness, evaluate your diet, exercise or level of physical activity, family history and other factors.
Body Mass Index and Its Implications
Once you have calculated your BMI, you may use it to determine your current weight status by referring to the following table:
|Body Mass Index||Weight Status|
|18.5 to 24.9||Normal|
|25.0 to 29.9||Overweight|
|30.0 and higher||Obese|
The Importance of Knowing Your BMI
Ideally, your BMI should be between 18.5 and 24.9; a reading in this range is a sign of being in optimal health. A high BMI indicating that you are overweight or obese should be referred to a health professional for further assessment and advice. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of many diseases, some of which may lead to serious and fatal consequences such as the following:
- Coronary heart disease
- Diabetes mellitus
- High cholesterol
- Gall bladder disease
- Colon, breast and endometrial cancer
On the other hand, an extremely low body mass index or one that is lower than 18.5 may increase your chances of developing:
- Compromised immunity
- Gastrointestinal diseases
- Respiratory diseases
Calculating your BMI is quick and inexpensive and enables you to take prompt action by asking your health professional to create an appropriate health plan for you. Regardless of your actual weight status, whether you are overweight or underweight, the best way to improve your Body Mass Index is through a healthy and balanced diet, regular exercise and a clean lifestyle.