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Feature Articles: Weight


pinch fatQuestions answered about body mass index

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Bates County, University of Missouri Extension


Body Mass Index or BMI is used by health professionals as one tool in determining health risks for chronic disease. It is used for population assessment of overweight and obesity.


To determine what your body mass index is, you can use this tool on the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute website. You’ll need to enter your height and weight and it will compute your BMI.


If you do not have access to the web, you can compute your BMI by using the following formula. Multiply your weight in pounds by 703 and then divide that number by your height in inches squared. For example, if you are 5 feet 4 inches tall and weigh 160 pounds you would multiply 160 x 703 and get 112,480. You would then convert your 5 feet 4 inches to all inches and get 64 inches. Multiply 64 x 64 to get height in inches squared. That answer is 4,096. You then divide 112,480 by 4,096 and get 27.46. You would round that up to 27.5 for your BMI. (This applies to adults only. BMI is figured differently for children.)


Now that you’ve figured out what your BMI is, you need to know what it means. Essentially, it is an indicator of your weight status as it relates to your height. A BMI below 18.5 indicates underweight; Normal range is 18.5–24.9; Overweight is 25–29.9; Obesity is 30 and above.


Overweight and obesity puts people at higher risk for developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disorders, arthritis and gallbladder disease. In addition, certain forms of cancer have been linked to obesity.


When health professionals are determining risk factors for disease, BMI is not the only consideration. According to the Centers for Disease Control, other important factors for determining the risk for chronic disease includes diet, physical activity, waist circumference, blood pressure, blood sugar level, cholesterol level, and family history of disease.


When you are reading literature about health risks as they relate to obesity and overweight it is important to understand what BMI is. Keep in mind that BMI alone is not used as a diagnostic tool. It is only one piece of the puzzle in determining health risk.


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Last update: Wednesday, October 26, 2016