For those of us still working on New Year’s Resolutions, or for that matter any resolution to be more healthy: Are we focusing on the right thing? Quite often the goal is to lose weight or exercise more. But a more complete story of your health just might be told by your BMI, or Body Mass Index.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “BMI does not measure body fat directly, but research has shown that BMI is moderately correlated with more direct measures of body fat. These measures are obtained from skinfold thickness measurements, densitometry (which is underwater weighing), and other methods.”
Will County Health Department Community Health Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jennifer Byrd says “BMI is an indicator of an individual’s potential risk to develop crippling medical conditions associated with obesity.”
Diabetes, Dr. Byrd explained, is a good example, because “in obese patients their insulin ‘hides’ in adipose tissue (where fat is stored), and thus the insulin is not out in the bloodstream doing its job to lower blood sugar.”
Dr. Byrd also mentioned Gallbladder Disease. “Gallstones are organized fat. Simply put, that fat collects in the body and the ducts of the gallbladder, causing it to run inefficiently.”
Additional examples mentioned were Fatty Liver Disease, Sleep Apnea, and Cancers. Dr. Byrd painted a very distinct picture of how a high BMI can set cancer in motion. “Adipose tissue is ‘hormonally active,’ meaning it produces hormones, like estrogen. The extra estrogen that is not used by the body bombards organs, like the uterus and the breasts, and can increase the risks of cancer in these organs.”
So where can we begin in learning about our BMI? Fortunately, you can calculate this measurement of your weight in relation to your height on your own. It’s a matter of dividing your weight (in kilograms or pounds) by your height squared (either in the amount of meters tall, such as 1.65, or the amount of inches tall, such at 65).
If you prefer to use pounds and inches, there is a conversion figure that’s needed. For more information on these BMI equations go to https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/index.html
Also found at that address will be the BMI table, which will give you what range you are in. For example, a Body Mass Index of 18.5 is considered underweight, while one of 25.0 or above is considered overweight. Anything from 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal or healthy.
As the CDC points out, your next step is more information, especially if your BMI shows up in the overweight category. The CDC site further describes BMI as a “screening tool,” but not necessarily a “diagnostic of health of an individual. Further tests might involve skinfold thickness, evaluations of diet, physical activity, and family history.”
Dr. Byrd concluded that a BMI that comes in as overweight is alarming for adults as well as children. “Measuring BMI at a young age allows us to be proactive in our advice to parents and patients to help prevent some of the morbidities that can develop later in life. Recent studies have shown that obese children are developing a kind of adipose tissue that is more difficult to diet off, and that there has been an increase in the incidence of Diabetes diagnoses in children over the last decade.”
For more on BMI specifically in children and teenagers, go to https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/childrens_bmi/about_childrens_bmi.html