Understanding BMI and How to Calculate it

Have you heard the words BMI before? What is it, and what does it mean? BMI, or body mass index, is a measure of your height compared to how much you weigh. While BMI is not necessarily a measure of health, it can be used to indicate when overweightness or obesity may cause other health issues.

To calculate your BMI, multiply your weight in pounds times 703, and divide the answer by your height in inches, squared. For adults, a normal BMI is a result between 18.5 and 24.9. Between 25 and 29.9 means that you are overweight, and a BMI of over 30 indicates obesity. While a high BMI does not necessarily indicate a health risk, your doctor will use this number in combination with evaluation of your diet, physical health, level of activity, and other factors to determine whether you are at higher risk for certain illnesses. By the same token, a lower BMI is not necessarily a measure of good health.

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If your doctor determines your BMI puts you at high risk for health problems, these may include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and other cardiac problems such as stroke, gallbladder issues, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and other breathing problems, certain cancers, mental illness, and difficulty functioning.

Fortunately, while some people are prone to obesity because of genetic factors or certain illnesses, many causes of obesity can be controlled. If you are overweight, steps that you can take to lead a healthier lifestyle include eating fewer calories and making sure that the calories you consume are vitamin rich, consisting of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and other nutritious choices. You should also limit sugary drinks, sweets, and processed and fried foods.

Physical activity is also an important part of lowering your BMI. You should strive to exercise at moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes per week. Counseling and support groups may help address issues that cause you to overeat and break patterns of unhealthy behavior.

For people who have a BMI of greater than 30 who already have developed complications related to obesity, doctors may recommend prescription medications to aid weight loss. In some cases, people with extreme obesity (BMI higher than 40) may be candidates for weight loss surgery.

If you are overweight or obese, talk with your doctor. He or she can help guide you toward changes that promote a healthier lifestyle.

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