What is BMI, And Why Is it a Measure of Health?

More people are increasingly discovering what their body mass index (BMI) is, just as they know their cholesterol levels. If you don’t, you can use any BMI calculator online or calculate it yourself, using this formula: BMI = your weight in kilograms/height in meters.

But now that you know your BMI, what exactly is it? And what can you do with it? Here’s what you need to know about BMI.

What Your BMI Means

It’s best to take a step back and know what your BMI is measuring and why it’s measured to understand what it means for you. In essence, the BMI calculates your size that takes into account your height and weight. You can use it to determine if you’re at a healthy weight or help professionals know the ideal measurement for your body and your ideal shape or contour. It gives anyone a general idea of their overall health status.

Moreover, BMI has been strongly correlated with several gold-standard methods to measure body fat. It gives medical professionals an easy way to screen individuals who may get a higher risk of developing health issues because of their weight.

However, keep in mind that BMI isn’t a perfect health measure since it doesn’t directly assess body fat. Your muscles and bones tend to be denser than fat, so a physically fit person or professional athlete may have a high BMI but don’t have too much fat and is in a relatively healthy state. But since not everyone is physically fit, using BMI is a great way to get an idea of how much body fat they have.

The Normal BMI

The average BMI of a healthy adult is between 18.5 to 25. If a person goes below the BMI of 18.5, they’re considered underweight. Meanwhile, individuals with a BMI between 25 and 30 are overweight, and someone with a BMI over 30 is considered obese.

Why BMI Matters

Generally, the higher your BMI, the higher your risk of developing several medical conditions associated with excess weight. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 3 million people die annually worldwide due to being overweight or obese. Medical conditions to watch out for include:

Knowing your BMI helps you avoid going too ‘far’ and helps you start a weight loss journey before it’s too late.

Limitations of BMI

BMI is a useful health measure of overweight and obesity, calculated from a person’s height and weight. It’s a good gauge of your risk for diseases that occurs when a person has more body fat than average. Although both men and women can use BMI, it still has limitations. For instance, it can overestimate body fat in physically fit individuals or underestimate it in older people or those who have lost muscles due to medical conditions.

That’s why medical experts pair your BMI information alongside other health tests, including knowing your resting heart rate and waist-to-height ratio.

As a single health measure, your BMI isn’t reliable. However, it serves as a great starting point for determining medical conditions that become more likely when an individual is overweight or obese. In essence, it’s a good idea to know your BMI and its limitations – giving you a great general overview of your health.