Body mass index (BMI), which measures your weight-to-height ratio, has been used by physicians for decades as the go-to measurement for health based on body size. This oversimplification however has been widely criticized as outdated and inaccurate. So, is BMI a useful measure of healthy weight? To help answer this question, we’re going to take you through the effectiveness, downsides and alternatives of BMI:
What is BMI?
BMI is a standard health assessment tool for physicians around the world to help determine if a patient is underweight, healthy weight, overweight or obese. You can calculate your BMI by using the formula: weight (lb.) / [height (in)]2 x 703. Your BMI will then place you into one of four weight categories:
- Underweight: Less than 18.5
- Healthy: 18.5 to 24.9
- Overweight: 25 to 29.9
- Obese: 30.0 or higher
Are these numbers an accurate indicator of health? Let’s sort out BMI facts from fiction:
BMI doesn’t indicate anything about health. Though the measurement has been criticized, most research supports BMI’s ability to estimate a person’s risk of chronic disease. Researchers found that those with a BMI lower than 18.5 (“underweight”) or of 30.0 or higher (“obese”) had an increased risk of early death compared to those with a “normal” BMI. Other research has shown that having a BMI of 30.0 or higher begins to significantly increase your risk of chronic health issues such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, breathing difficulties, kidney disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and mobility issues. Due to the results of such research, many health professionals use BMI as a general indicator of a person’s risk for chronic disease. However, other diagnostic tools should be used to take other factors into account.
BMI doesn’t consider other factors of health. When you calculate your BMI, all you’re considering is your weight and height as a measure of health. But there is so much more about you as an individual that should be factored in, including your age, sex, body composition, medical history, lifestyle and even sociological factors such as income and accessibility to affordable and nutritious food. Also, not all weight is equal — muscle, fat and bone mass all play their part in determining someone’s health. Consider this, two people of the same height and weight could lead completely different lives and look completely different. One could be a pro-athlete with a high muscle mass, while the other could lead a more sedentary lifestyle with a higher fat mass. If you only measure BMI, you could mislabel someone as “overweight” or “obese” even though they have a low-fat mass.
BMI is the end-all, be-all health measurement. BMI is just one measurement, there are many alternatives health professionals can use as indicators of a person’s health. Waist circumference, for example, is an easily measurable complementary screening tool to BMI, requiring only a measuring tape. A waist circumference of 35 inches in women and of 40 inches in men can indicate greater body fat in the abdominal area, which is associated with a higher risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Other body assessment tools include body fat percentage and blood tests, each with their own set of advantages and disadvantages.
If diet and exercise alone aren’t enough to achieve your ideal body, the highly skilled staff at CNY Cosmetic & Reconstructive Surgery may be able to help. We offer a comprehensive selection of body contouring treatments to help slim “problem” areas of unwanted fat and tighten loose or sagging skin. It’s important to note however, our services are not weight loss procedures. Even with fat removal procedures such as liposuction, without a change in diet and exercise, the results of treatment can be undone. Body contouring is meant only as a complement to a healthy lifestyle, so you can look and feel your absolute best. Depending on factors such as BMI, our team will help determine if body contouring is right for you and design a treatment plan ideal to your unique needs and goals during your personal consultation.