What’s My BMI and Why Should I Care?

You’ve had your BMI measured for years and probably didn’t even know it. Every time you go to the doctor the nurse takes your vitals and measures your weight; sometimes they measure your height. These measurements allow them to calculate your BMI (Body Mass Index)—the amount of body fat you have. A BMI of 19-24.9 indicates normal weight; less than 19 is considered underweight; 25-29.9 is considered overweight; and 30 or higher is considered obese.

Why should you care?

By maintaining a healthy weight and normal BMI you’re likely to have fewer joint and muscle pains, more energy, better regulation of bodily fluids and blood pressure, reduced burden to your heart and circulatory system, better sleep, reductions in blood triglycerides, blood sugar, and the risk of developing diabetes, and reduced risk for heart disease and certain cancers.

Being overweight or obese puts you at a greater risk of developing diabetes mellitus, heart disease, osteoarthritis of the hips, knees and ankles (due to increased wear and tear on those joints) and a host of other medical problems. Don’t forget your HealthTeam Advantage plan includes complimentary membership to SilverSneakers (see the article below for more details).

You’re at a higher risk of health issues if your BMI is 35-39.9 and you have two or more weight-related medical problems—in fact, you’re considered morbidly obese (deathly fat). Your risk of medical complications, (heart attack or stroke that could result in death), is significantly elevated. The same morbidly obese category applies if your BMI is more than 39.9 even if you’re otherwise healthy.

Excess weight increases the work your heart must do. It also raises blood pressure and blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It can make diabetes more likely to develop, too. Lifestyle changes that help you maintain a 3-5% weight loss are likely to result in clinically meaningful improvements in blood glucose, triglycerides, and risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Greater weight loss can even help reduce BP and improve blood cholesterol.

How do you calculate your BMI?

What is your BMI? You can use an online BMI calculator, ask your doctor, or calculate it yourself with the instructions below.

  1. Use a weight scale on a hard, flat, un-carpeted surface. Wear very little clothing and no shoes.
  2. Weigh yourself to the nearest pound.
  3. With your eyes facing forward and your heels together, stand very straight against a wall. Your buttocks, shoulders and the back of your head should be touching the wall.
  4. Mark your height at the highest point of your head. Then measure your height in feet and inches to the nearest 1/4 inch. Also figure your height in inches only.
  5. Find your height in feet and inches in the first column of the Body Mass Index Risk Levels table. The ranges of weight that correspond to minimal risk, moderate risk (overweight) and high risk (obese) are shown in the three columns for each height.

Height in Inches

4’10”
4’11”
5’0
5’1″
5’2′
5’3″
5’4″
5’5″
5’6″
5’7″
5’8″
5’9″
5’10”
5’11”
6’0″
6’1″
6’2″
6’3″
6’4″

Minimal risk
(BMI under 25)

118 lbs. or less
123 or less
127 or less
131 or less
135 or less
140 or less
144 or less
149 or less
154 or less
158 or less
163 or less
168 or less
173 or less
178 or less
183 or less
188 or less
193 or less
199 or less
204 or less

Moderate risk
(BMI 25–29.9)
Overweight

119–142 lbs.
124–147
128–152
132–157
136–163
141–168
145–173
150–179
155–185
159–190
164–196
169–202
174–208
179–214
184–220
189–226
194–232
200–239
205–245

High risk
(BMI 30 and above)
Obese

143 lbs. or more
148 or more
153 or more
158 or more
164 or more
169 or more
174 or more
180 or more
186 or more
191 or more
197 or more
203 or more
209 or more
215 or more
221 or more
227 or more
233 or more
240 or more
246 or more

To calculate your exact BMI value, multiply your weight in pounds by 703, divide by your height in inches, then divide again by your height in inches.

(Adapted from Obesity Education Initiative: Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults, National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Obesity Research 1998, 6 Suppl 2:51S-209S) Source: HTA medical advisors and the American Heart Association