An estimate of your body fat, body mass index (BMI) is calculated by using your height and weight.
“BMI essentially is a calculation of weight versus height,” said Dr. Suzanne Pham, general medicine physician at Weiss Memorial Hospital. “It shows how far from (or close to) normal you are for your height.”
A healthy BMI runs between 18.5 and 24.9. Any number below 18.5 indicates a variety of health issues, including malnourishment and eating disorders. BMI above 24.9 can lead to other complications, such as diabetes, heart conditions and stroke.
The downfall, Pham said, is that standard BMI calculations do not account for body fat vs. muscle. For example, a person could be a weight lifter with more muscle weight than fat, but the BMI calculates all weight as fat. “It’s not perfect, but it’s a good screening tool,” Dr. Pham said.
The BMI measurement has existed since the 19th century, but according to Dr. Pham, a series of New England Journal of Medicine articles in the 1970s increased its modern-day use. Today, multiple online calculators provide your BMI at home, or you can check in with your physician.
To keep your BMI in check, Dr. Pham recommends a healthy, well-balanced diet. “Obesity is epidemic in our society, especially now with children. Being aware of your BMI and your child’s BMI helps you stay on top of your diet.”
Sleep can affect your weight loss or gain. A well-rested body can digest food and process activity more easily. Dr. Pham also stresses plenty of exercise and frequent check-ups with your physician.
Visit these online calculators to figure out your BMI: