BMI is Only Part of the Story

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the Body Mass Index (BMI) is a good place to start when determining the likelihood that weight will lead to future health problems.  However, BMI only tells a portion of the story.  It’s an inexpensive assessment that is easy to perform (all you need is a person’s height and weight), but it does not take into account gender, age, and muscularity of individuals.  A high BMI does not necessarily mean the individual is overweight or unhealthy since it does not measure body fat directly.   

BMI has been shown to predict health issues associated with being overweight, so BMI is still considered a good first step for most people, as long as it is interpreted carefully.  For instance, women tend to have a higher percentage of body fat than a male counterpart of the same BMI.  Older adults generally have more body fat than younger adults, while athletes tend to weigh more due to the amount of muscle needed for their sport.     
For a more comprehensive assessment of health risk due to weight, use these measures together:
1.      BMI:  Calculate by dividing weight in pounds by height in inches squared and multiply by 703, or calculate electronically HERE
2.      Waist Circumference:  Stand and place a tape measure around your waist, just above your hipbones.  Measure your waist after you gently breathe out.  There is greater risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes if your waist size is 35 inches or more for women and 40 inches or more for men. 
3.      Risk factors for heart disease associated with obesity:  In addition to being overweight or obese, there are other factors that can lead to higher risk of heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high LDL “bad” cholesterol and low HDL “good” cholesterol, high blood triglycerides and glucose, family history of premature heart disease, physical inactivity, and cigarette smoking.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends weight loss consideration for those with BMI readings greater than 25, waist circumferences greater than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men, and two or more of the above risk factors for heart disease.  
9Health Fair can start you on this assessment path.  BMI screening will be one of the many free and low-cost health screenings offered at the last 9Health Fair on June 1 at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver.  In addition to the basic free and low-cost screenings, free breast, pap smear, oral health, and stress management screenings will be available, as well as a low-cost Hepatitis C blood screening ($25).  Register online to save you time the day of the fair.