Body mass index, or BMI, is one calculation doctors use to determine if you are at a healthy weight. Besides measuring your weight, BMI takes height into account. This can be a reliable measure of your total body fat—and your possible health risks.
Defining BMI and Obesity
Here’s how to determine your BMI:
- Multiply your weight in pounds by 703.
- Divide that number by your height in inches.
- Then divide that number by your height in inches again. The final number is your BMI.
You can also calculate your BMI using online tools. To access one of these tools, visit www.cdc.gov and search for “BMI calculator.”
If your BMI is:
- Below 18.5, you are underweight
- Between 18.5 and 24.9, you are at a normal weight
- Between 25 and 29.9, you are overweight
- At 30 and above, you are obese
In general, BMI increases as we get older, reaching its peak when we are in our 50s. After age 60, BMI dips slightly. Still, nearly one-third of Americans are obese.
The Effects of Obesity
Obesity raises the risk for heart disease, cancer, and other chronic conditions. For example:
- A high BMI is linked to an increased risk for knee arthritis.
- In men, obesity can cause sleep problems, specifically sleep apnea.
Gaining from Weight Loss
Losing weight can have many benefits—even over the short-term. For example, weight loss:
- Improves cholesterol and blood pressure
- Reduces diabetes risk
- Is linked to a lower risk for breast cancer in post-menopausal women
Lowering Your BMI
Losing weight is a big task, but little changes can add up. Consider some of these strategies:
- Enjoy breakfast. People who eat a healthy breakfast are less likely to overeat later in the day.
- Eat healthier. A healthy diet should emphasize fruits, veggies, whole grains, and low- or nonfat dairy products.
- Exercise. Aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week.
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Living Well: Healthy Changes