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Is Your BMI Really A Good Measure of Your Health

Is Your BMI a Reliable Indicator of Your Wellbeing?

Do you know what your BMI is? People are becoming more conscious of theirs, much as they are of their cholesterol levels. One can use an online BMI calculator if you don't know your BMI.

The full form of BMI is Body Mass Index You only need to know your height and weight. You can also compute it yourself using the following formula: 

BMI = (weight in pounds multiplied by 703)/ (height in inches x height in inches). Is it worth knowing your BMI now that you have it? So, what are your plans for it?   

What your BMI indicates?

It's helpful to take a step back and understand what your BMI is measuring and why it's being assessed in order to grasp what it signifies. 

BMI is a size measurement that takes into account all your height and weight. One can recall utilizing charts that required you to locate your height on the left side of the chart and then slide your finger to the right to see your "ideal weight" from options provided under small, medium, or big "frame" sizes.  

These graphs are based on actuarial statistics, which are calculations used by life insurance firms to calculate your chances of living to a ripe old age using data from thousands of people. Such graphs were hard to understand, and how a user's "frame size" was determined was never made clear.

BMI is comparable because it expresses your height and weight as just a single value that is independent of frame size. Despite the fact that BMI has been there for nearly 200 years, it still is a new health indicator. 

What is a healthy BMI?  

A BMI of 18.5 to 25 is considered normal, 25 to 30 is considered overweight, and over 30 is considered obese. If a person's BMI is even less than 18.5, they are termed underweight.

BMI, like other health markers, isn't a perfect test. Pregnancy or excessive muscle mass, for example, can skew the results, and it may not be a good indicator of health for youngsters or the elderly. So, why is BMI important? In general, the higher your BMI, the greater your chance of getting a variety of illnesses associated with obesity, such as:

  • Diabetes 
  • Arthritis 
  • Liver ailment 
  • A wide range of malignancies (breast, colon, and prostate)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a condition in which the blood pressure is abnormally (hypertension)
  • Elevated cholesterol levels 
  • Apnea (sleep deprivation)

According to the World Health Organization, approximately three million people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. Furthermore, people with high BMIs frequently report feeling better, both physically and psychologically, once they reduce excess weight, regardless of disease.  

Should we stop giving BMI so much "strength"? 

Maybe. According to research, BMI misclassifies metabolic health, which is connected to how much fat a person has and how it is distributed. Furthermore, BMI can be unreliable during pregnancy, for sportsmen, and for the elderly.  

This should, in fact, come as no surprise. BMI as a single metric is unlikely to detect cardiovascular disease or health; the same can be said for cholesterol, blood sugar, or blood pressure as a single metric. While cardiovascular health and wellness are vital, it is not the only indicator of well-being!

For example, the study cited above did not take into account illnesses like liver disease or arthritis, which could be relevant to someone with an elevated BMI. Furthermore, rather than forecasting present health, BMI may be more beneficial in predicting future health. According to research like this and here, people who are healthy but overweight or obese are more likely to acquire diabetes or other unfavourable health implications over time.  

The present BMI obesity and overweight criteria are based largely on white folks. However, body composition, such as percent body fat or muscle mass, varies by race and ethnicity. As a result, BMI may be useful in predicting health status among white people, but it may be less accurate in other racial and ethnic groups.  

For example, using standard BMI measurements to define obesity tends to exaggerate danger in Black people while underestimating risk in Asian people. This could lead to ineffective counselling and treatment, resulting in greater healthcare inequities. Different BMI cutoffs for overweight and obesity in adults of Asian heritage are recommended by the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health. As BMI research progresses, it's possible that adjustments will be proposed for other groups in the future. 

Take Away

BMI is certainly not a perfect indicator of health when used alone. However, it's still a good place to start when it comes to serious illnesses that are more common when a person is overweight or obese. Knowing your BMI is, in my opinion, an excellent idea. However, it's equally critical to understand its limitations.