05 May What’s your BMI and is it Important?
Yet another recent study has highlighted the serious health risks associated with carrying excess weight, and the scale of the problem in the UK. Even those who were slightly overweight were found to be twice as likely to have type 2 diabetes.
You can read more about the study in this BBC story, but what do these findings really mean? In short, being overweight puts you at serious risk of numerous health problems. The conclusions were drawn from an observational study, so it does have some drawbacks, but it’s a timely reminder of the importance of monitoring our weight for health purposes.
We often hear about BMI when healthy weight ranges are being discussed. I know they can cause some confusion so here’s what you need to know about BMI…
WHAT IS BMI?
BMI stands for body mass index and it is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy. If your BMI is:
- below 18.5 – you’re in the underweight range
- between 18.5 and 24.9 – you’re in the healthy weight range
- between 25 and 29.9 – you’re in the overweight range
- between 30 and 39.9 – you’re in the obese range
There are, of course, limitations when it comes to BMI readings. They don’t take into account situations such as high muscle percentage, so there can be professional rugby players and body builders who fall into the obese category when they are anything but. However, for the average person it can be a useful indicator of whether you’re at a healthy weight or whether you’re in an at-risk category.
HOW CAN I FIND OUT MY BMI?
Your BMI can be easily ascertained by using this NHS online BMI Healthy Weight Calculator, all you need to know is your height and weight. I regularly see people in my clinic whose BMI categorises them as obese – this can come as a bit of a shock as they certainly don’t fit the stereotypical picture the word conjures up. It’s worth checking to find out where you stand.
A WORD ON WAIST CIRCUMFERENCE
In addition to knowing your BMI, it’s also important to know your waist circumference. Most health experts agree that our waist circumference is a more accurate indicator of health risk than BMI. It’s possible to be within a healthy BMI range but still have too much fat around the middle, or ‘belly fat’, which has numerous health consequences. Regardless of your height or BMI, it’s advisable to lose weight if your waist is greater than 94cm (37in) for men and 80cm (31.5in) for women. You’re at very high risk of serious health issues if your waist measurement is above 102cm (40in) for men or 88cm (34.5in) for women. Your waist measurement can be taken at home using a tape measure. Here is my guide for how to measure yourself.