Yesterday I posted about a new study that found that many Americans may not know they’re overweight. And of course it begs the question: how do you accurately know what weight category you fall into? Well BMI is a good place to start. If you go to www.cdc.gov and type in BMI it will come right up. All you need to do is enter your height and weight and your BMI will be calculated for you. But BMI isn’t perfect, because it doesn’t tell you anything about your body composition. In other words a very muscular person may score high on the BMI even if they have a low body fat percentage, but that’s pretty rare. For most of us it is a good estimate of weight status and the range is pretty wide. For example for a 5’4” female a normal BMI would mean weighing anywhere between 108 and 145 – that range allows for differences in frame size.
That said you shouldn’t go by BMI alone. I highly recommend also considering your waist circumference. Having a waist measurement of above 35” for women or 40” for men is an indication of carrying excess fat in your midsection, which is the most dangerous type of fat to carry because it has been shown to increase inflammation in the body, a known trigger of aging and disease, and up the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases. It is possible to have a normal BMI and a high waist measurement, if that’s where you carry most of your excess weight.
And finally be sure to take other indicators of health into consideration, such as your cholesterol and blood pressure, how active you are, your stress level, how well you sleep, not smoking and the quality of your diet. Bottom line: having a normal BMI does NOT automatically mean you’re healthy. I have worked in both cardiac rehab and oncology and I can tell you that people with normal BMIs get diagnosed with heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and even type 2 diabetes. At the end of the day it’s all about your lifestyle. Overall your day-to-day habits make the greatest impact on your health, regardless of the number on the scale.
Do you find yourself getting too caught up in the numbers? Or do you ignore your health because your BMI is normal? Do you think you overestimate your weight (think you’re heavier than you really are)? Please share your thoughts!