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BMI: What’s the Big Deal?

BMI: What’s the Big Deal?You’re probably familiar with the term Body Mass Index, or BMI. It’s a tool doctors use to determine if you’re at a healthy weight. However, it’s not as straightforward as it sounds.

BMI is a calculation that uses your weight and height to measure overall body fat. Excess weight can lead to serious health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. Here’s where it gets confusing: you can be overweight and healthy at the same time.

That’s why your BMI shouldn’t be the only indicator of your health as it relates to your weight. It’s simply a starting point. “We also look at other factors, including skin fold thickness, lifestyle and diet,” says Dr. Ancy, Club W’s medical director. “Body Mass Index is a good screening tool for obesity, but it’s not used to diagnose it. It helps physicians identify women who may be at risk.”

BMI Breakdown

Underweight Below 18.5
Normal weight Between 18.5-24.9
Overweight Between 25-29.9
Obese 30 or higher

Other factors can affect your BMI number:

  • Activity level. You can have a BMI in the normal weight range but still carry a lot of body fat. That’s why you can’t gauge your health on your BMI number alone.
  • Age. As you get older, it’s OK to have some extra fat. However, a BMI of 30 or higher isn’t good.
  • Body shape. Where you carry your body fat (ex. waist, hips or thighs) makes a difference. Belly fat increases your health risk.
  • Muscle mass. Keep in mind that muscle weighs more than fat, meaning you may have a higher BMI number and be healthy. But, again, a BMI of 30 or higher is cause for concern.

“While a higher BMI can be due to muscle mass, a number higher than 30 is more likely to be related to high body fat,” Dr. Ancy advises.

An annual health assessment in your primary care doctor’s office, through your employer’s health and wellness program, or at a North Kansas City Hospital Health Fair can help you keep tabs on your BMI and other important health indicators.

Get started by calculating your BMI.