The health and fitness world is full of unique jargon, and the medical world has its fair share, too. BMI is a term that folks in both industries use to speak the same language when it comes to evaluating a person’s weight.
Dr. Nirav Naik at New Life Medical in Bakersfield, California, specializes in helping people achieve a healthy weight and often takes BMI into consideration during his exams, evaluations, and diagnoses. Here, he explains what BMI is and why it matters.
BMI stands for body mass index, which is a health screening tool doctors, trainers, nutritionists, and many other health care professionals use.
Your BMI is derived from a formula based on weight and height. Before you begin to calculate your BMI, you need to know two numbers: your weight in pounds and the square of your height in inches. Divide the number of pounds by the inches squared, and multiply the total by 703 to arrive at your BMI. The formula is 703 x weight (lbs.) / [height (in.)]2.
It’s much easier, however, to use our handy BMI calculator.
BMI benefits and limitations
Doctors have used BMI as a health metric since the mid-19th century to estimate patients’ fat levels and potential health risks, and it still serves that purpose well. It’s an effective tool for assessing the overall health and fitness of large populations, and public health researchers rely on it to compile statistics and chart trends.
On an individual level, BMI is one of several diagnostic tools Dr. Naik uses it to assess your health, but it’s by no means the only one because it doesn’t give a complete picture of your health.
At best, BMI indicates how you compare to other people of the same height. At worst, it delivers a skewed number that misrepresents your body composition. For example, bodybuilders and athletes may outweigh someone else of the same height, but their weight comes from lean muscle, not fat.
Other methods of determining body composition, such as weighing underwater, using bioelectrical impedance, measuring skinfold thickness, or using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, might be more accurate, but they’re also more expensive and take more time. BMI is quick and accessible to everyone, and as long as it’s used in conjunction with other professional assessments, it can be a valuable tool.
What your BMI tells you about your health
BMI is nothing more than a benchmark, an indicator to look deeper into your health. High BMIs are associated with several serious health conditions, including:
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Gallbladder disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Obstructive sleep apnea
So how do you know if you’re at risk for these chronic problems? Here’s a look at healthy and unhealthy BMIs.
- If your BMI is under 18.5, you’re considered underweight
- If your BMI is 18.5-24.9, you’re considered to be at a healthy weight
- If your BMI is 25-29.9, you’re considered overweight
- If your BMI is 30 or higher, you’re considered obese
If you fall within one of the last two categories, Dr. Naik can run tests based on the assessment. Early action can reverse some health conditions before they pose life-threatening complications.
Following a healthy diet and increasing your physical activity can help you lower an unhealthy BMI. However, if these traditional measures don’t work and you’re dealing with obesity, Dr. Naik may recommend bariatric surgery to help you lose weight.
If you’re concerned about your BMI and overall health, call New Life Medical at 661-230-7344 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Naik and find out if your BMI is trying to tell you something.