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Big-Boned or Just Overweight? The Body Mass Index Can Tell

Do you need to get on a serious diet, or are you carrying just a few extra pounds? It's a key health question because knowing whether you have reached obesity can help prevent life-threatening weight-related illnesses.

A standard gauge for healthy weight is the Body Mass Index, a number calculated from a person’s weight and height.

While BMI does not directly measure body fat, it is a straightforward, inexpensive way tell if someone’s weight might put him or her at greater risk for health problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

BMI is only a guide. If a person has a high BMI, a physician might consider additional factors such as diet, physical activity, body fat, and family history.

Your BMI is only a preliminary measure. Because it’s based on an average of the population, BMI allows us to see how we compare in body mass to others.


Understanding BMI

We calculate BMI in the same way for men and women 20 years of age and older. Children and teenagers, however, are divided into age and gender-specific groups.

BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight by the square of his or her height. That resulting number is then divided by 703, which converts the number to align with the metric system.

For example, someone who is 5-feet, 5-inches tall, and who weighs 150 pounds would have a BMI of 24.96.

Someone with a BMI below 18.5 is considered underweight. Normal falls into the rage of 18.5 to 24.9. Overweight is from 25 to 29.9.

Anyone with a BMI above 30 falls into the obese range. But remember, a high BMI is only one indicator a person might carry an unhealthy amount of weight.

If your BMI falls into the range of overweight or obese, consider consulting with a physician.


Am I Big-Boned or Overweight?

A well-muscled athlete might weigh more and still be far healthier, than a person of the same height who carries extra body fat. So if that’s the case, how can the Body Mass Index be accurate?

After all, the index calculates a person’s weight and height to end up with a number indicating if someone tips the scales into a healthy, or unhealthy, range.

And, the BMI index for adults does not consider gender, so the ranges are the same for men and women.

The BMI, however, does show a fairly strong tie between the index and body fat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, there are variations for sex, race, and age.

  • At the the same BMI, women tend to have more body fat than men.
  • Older people tend to have more body fat than younger adults.
  • That super fit athlete’s high BMI might be from muscle, not fat.

It recent years, the accuracy of usefulness of the BMI index have been challenge.

The CDC emphasizes that the index is only one factor to consider when evaluating if someone’s weight puts them at additional risk for disease.