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Understanding the Body Mass Index - BMI

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The Body Mass Index, BMI, is a statistic that relates the weight of an individual to his/her height. It has come to be used as a strong indicator of the appropriateness of one's weight. An individual's Body Mass Index may suggest the presence of obesity or a tendency towards it. The Body Mass Index is therefore a handy measure is the general assessment of body fatness.

The BMI is not a diagnostic tool since it is not a measure of body fat directly. Studies however show a good correlation between BMI and direct measures of body fat. The body mass index therefore serves a good purpose in indicating weight tendencies that may lead to possible health problems.

Calculation of Body Mass Index
The body mass index is calculated as a person's weight in kilograms divided by his/her height in meters squared. In effect, the BMI is given by the formula:

BMI = Weight (kgs)/Height (m)2

Implications of BMI for Health
Many health problems are linked to and aggravated by being overweight or obese. Such health conditions include:

  • coronary heart diseases
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • stroke
  • Gallbladder disease
  • respiratory problems

The need to control obesity or a tendency towards it becomes pressing in the face of the risk factor it constitutes. An important factor in that control process is measurement and monitoring of one's weight and body fat. The BMI is an easy and handy measure in assessing one's weight status and gives a good indication of the risk exposure. That has made it a commonly used assessment factor by health personnel. Combined with waist circumference measure, the risk of exposure to disease conditions can readily be assessed. That has evolved into a control chart, like this one:

Risk of Associated Disease According to BMI and Waist Size

BMI

 

Waist less than or equal to
40 in. (men) or
35 in. (women)

Waist greater than
40 in. (men) or
35 in. (women)

18.5 or less

Underweight

--

N/A

18.5 - 24.9

Normal

--

N/A

25.0 - 29.9

Overweight

Increased

High

30.0 - 34.9

Obese

High

Very High

35.0 - 39.9

Obese

Very High

Very High

40 or greater

Extremely Obese

Extremely High

Extremely High

Is the BMI a Reliable Measure?
The answer will be "yes", given that the general correlation between the BMI and body fat has been proven to be strong. However, body fat is best monitored by a direct measure, using available measurement tools which have proved accurate in measuring body fat. Given the health risk that excessive body fat can expose one to, it is best to keep a good fat monitoring device. The Omron body fat monitoring equipment, for instance, are noted for proven body fat measurement accuracy. The Omron BF400 and BF500 fat monitors are technology breakthrough equipment that health-conscious individuals are putting to great use because of their precision in measuring body fat even while also calculating of the BMI and measuring total body weight. The BF306 is also a handy tool to measure body fat. They all use bio-electrical impedance technology to provide accurate readings of body fat.

In all, the BMI is still a useful quick measure that can be used for assessment of obesity tendency or extend, when the precision devices are not available.

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