Body Mass Index

Body Mass Index or BMI is a tool for indicating weight status in adults over 20. It is a measure of weight for height. BMI correlates with body fat. The relation between fat content and BMI differs with age and gender. For example, women are more likely to have a higher percent of body fat than men for the same BMI. On average, older people may have more body fat than younger adults with the same BMI.

The BMI ranges are based on the effect body weight has on disease and death. As BMI increases, the risk for some disease increases. 

Some common conditions related to overweight and obesity include:

  • Premature death
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Some cancers
  • Diabetes

BMI is only one of many factors used to predict risk for disease. BMI cannot be used to tell if a person has a disease such as diabetes or cancer. It is important to remember that weight is only one factor that is related to chronic disease. 

Other factors that may be important to look at when assessing your risk for chronic disease include:

  • Diet
  • Physical activity
  • Waist circumference
  • Blood pressure
  • Blood sugar level
  • Cholesterol level
  • Family history of disease

All persons who are obese or overweight should try not to gain additional weight. In addition, those who are obese or who are overweight with other risk factors should consider losing weight. A complete health assessment by a physician is the best way to decide the right steps for you.

Whatever your BMI, talk to your doctor to see if you are at an increased risk for disease and if you should lose weight. Even a small weight loss --just 10 percent of your current weight-- may help to lower your risk of disease.

Physical activity and good nutrition are key factors in leading a healthy lifestyle and reducing risk for disease.