Bariatric Weight-Loss Surgery

Does Your BMI Matter?

Dr. Jason F. Moy
Dr. Brian T. Chin
Daniel Roman
October 19, 2023
Does Your BMI Matter?

With so much access to information and resources at our disposal, people are becoming increasingly more health conscious.  They know their BMI as well as they know their cholesterol levels and blood pressure. It’s great when people take control of their health and wellness. Knowledge helps us make well-informed decisions to prevent disease and live healthier lifestyles. In addition, we rely on many factors to help us determine our overall health. So how important is BMI in the grand scheme of things? Does your BMI matter? 

BMI is an acronym for Body Mass Index. It is a tool used to measure body fat based on height and weight as it applies to adult men and women. BMI is not a perfect indication of health, but it is an important component to help measure it. We know that statistics show a direct link between high BMI and increased risk for various health conditions. These include:

  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Liver disease
  • Certain types of cancer 
  • Hypertension 
  • High cholesterol
  • Sleep apnea

BMI does have its limitations. Research suggests that BMI alone frequently misclassifies metabolic health. Certain circumstances will affect its validity of it. For example, pregnancy can alter the result of a BMI evaluation. Studies have shown that it’s not reliable as a measurement tool for athletes. This is mainly because they have higher levels of lean muscle mass than non-athletes. Most experts agree that a BMI chart is not an accurate measurement for children or the senior population. 

BMI, as a single measure, cannot accurately measure a person’s overall health. However, considering BMI as an important factor among a group of collective factors helps provide more insight. For example, high BMI is linked to increased risk for certain diseases and health conditions. So, BMI can be a useful tool for predicting future health. In addition, it can help shape the landscape of preventive treatment approaches.  

How To Calculate BMI & Other Critical Health Factors 

To determine where you fall on the body mass index chart, you need to know how to calculate BMI. You can plug your information into a calculator or use this formula:

weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703

A normal, healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 25. A BMI between 25 and 30 is considered overweight, and a person with a BMI over 30 is considered obese. A person with a BMI less than 18.5 is underweight, and that classification comes with health risks. These include malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, immune dysfunction, and osteoporosis. 

A comprehensive approach to getting a picture of overall health should include the following criteria:

  • Blood pressure: BP measures the pressure of your blood supply against your artery walls as your heart beats. Heart rate: Generally, a lower resting heart rate is associated with more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness.
  • Blood sugar: Blood sugar tests reveal how much glucose, or sugar, is in your blood. These levels help your doctor screen for pre-diabetes and diabetes.
  • Cholesterol: Your cholesterol levels show the amount of LDL (bad) and HDL (good) cholesterol in your blood. If your LDL is too high, it increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Inflammation: Chronic inflammation links to a myriad of diseases. 

It is also important to note that body composition, including percent body fat or muscle mass, can vary by race and ethnic group. Current BMI definitions of overweight or obesity are mainly based on white populations. So, BMI may not be entirely accurate for people in other racial and ethnic groups. For example, the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health recommend different BMI cutoffs for overweight and obesity in people of Asian descent. There are likely changes on the horizon to accommodate other racial and ethnic groups as research on BMI progresses. 

BMI Formula & Its Limitations 

The BMI formula is often used as a starting point to gather health information. It's important to know the BMI meaning and where you fall on the chart. But, it's also important to recognize that, as a single factor, it has its limitations. The specialists at BASS Bariatric Surgery Center can perform appropriate health assessments to evaluate your health status and risks.

About The Author

Daniel Roman, Content Writer

Daniel Roman is a Digital Content Writer at BASS Medical Group. He received his Masters in Journalism from UC Berkeley in 2021. Daniel has published multiple newspaper articles covering public health issues. His latest was a magazine cover story on pandemics and diseases that he co-wrote with Dr. Elena Conis, a historian of medicine, public health, and the environment.

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