Why You Want a Healthy BMI
About 97 million adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
I remember once hearing a joke that went something like this: Doctor says to patient, “Well, well. It seems that your weight is perfect. It just happens that you are eleven feet too short.”
If you’ve ever wondered about your weight (and who hasn’t?) as it relates to your height – if it’s a “healthy” weight – that’s where this fairly reliable indicator of body fatness comes in handy. BMI calculates how much you should weigh, based on your height. And although it cannot measure your body fat in a direct way – these other methods include skinfold measurements using calipers, underwater weighing, dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, or DXA – research has shown that BMI does correlate to direct measures of body fat and can be considered an alternative for other measures, which are typically costly and difficult to access. BMI measurement is inexpensive and easy for both clinicians and the general public to use to compare their own weight status to that of the general population.
However solid a measurement of body fatness BMI is, there are some considerations to take into account. Are you a woman? At the same BMI, women have more body fat than men. Perhaps you work out and lift weights regularly. You may have a high(er) BMI because of your increased muscle mass (muscle weighs more than fat). Are you getting on in years? Again, at the same BMI, older people tend to have more body fat than younger adults.
However a strong predictor, measuring BMI is only one way to assess your risk for diseases related to being overweight. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute guidelines also recommend looking at waist circumference and other risk factors, like high blood pressure or physical inactivity.
A BMI from 25.0 to 29.9 puts you in the “overweight” range, while a BMI greater than 30 will move you over the line, into the “obese” range.
It’s no news that excess weight is a health danger, increasing your risk of diseases and health conditions you’d rather avoid, including:
- Coronary heart disease
- Type-2 diabetes
- Gallbladder disease
- High cholesterol & triglycerides
- Sleep apnea
- Respiratory problems
- Certain cancers, like breast, endometrial and colon
And speaking of being overweight, a May 8th article in the business section of The New York Times this year highlighted another risk associated with it; one I must admit I hadn’t thought of: some scientists and engineers are concerned about the safety of airplane seats for overweight passengers. The federal standards on the strength of the seats and seat belts (which were set more than 60 years ago) were designed for a passenger weighing 170 pounds. But since that time, Americans have put on some pounds; the average man today weighs nearly 194 pounds and the average woman, 165 pounds. What’s even more frightening to realize is that, according to Robert Salzar, the principal scientist at the Center for Applied Biomechanics at the University of Virginia, it’s not just the seat occupant who may not be protected. If seats collapse and belts fail, passengers seated nearby might be put in danger as well, from “the unrestrained motion of the passenger.”
Yes, weight, like airplanes, is climbing to dizzying heights. But that certainly doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands in surrender. According to The Mayo Clinic, losing just five to ten percent of your body weight, if you are an obese person, can yield you significant health improvements. For a person weighing 250 pounds, that loss translates into a range of 12-25 pounds.
Here’s some even more encouraging news for us women of a certain age. When scientists followed a group of 102 healthy pre-menopausal, non-obese women between the ages of 47 and 55 for five years, they found that despite their changes in body composition and visceral abdominal fat (which oftentimes occurs with menopause), the women did not have an increased risk of heart disease. And since heart disease risk increases after menopause – and is the number one killer in this country – that’s somewhat comforting, don’t you think? The study, published in the journal Menopause, stresses the importance of maintaining a healthy BMI in those pre-menopause years.
Simply put, that healthy BMI will set you up for a healthier heart.
Exercise is one guaranteed BMI Buster.
Curious about how to calculate your BMI? Click here.
Welcome to the Supplemental!
The Supplemental is a blog for "Life...supplemented", a forum for discussion around healthy diet, supplements and exercise. Our panel of experts who share a variety of fresh and innovative perspectives, will provide ways to live a healthier life and inspire you to make smart choices.
Most Popular Posts