Body mass index, or BMI, is a number that represents the ratio of your weight to your height. Doctors use this number as part of their evaluation of whether you are normal or overweight. They also use it as one of the primary indicators of your overall health. If your BMI is too high, you may have a higher risk of developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, or heart disease.
Most experts consider a normal BMI of 18-24 to be healthy for most people. BMIs over 30 tend to be unhealthy, so doctors consider a BMI of over 30 overweight.
Does A High BMI Always Mean I Am Overweight?
There are some exceptions to the rule when it comes to a high BMI representing obesity. For example, if you are a bodybuilder, it is normal to have a much higher BMI because muscle is heavier than fat by volume.
Children’s appropriate weight is determined by their age rather than their height and varies from child to child. See a pediatrician if you are concerned about your child’s weight and consider options like diet and exercise to remedy any concerns.
For the elderly, a BMI of 25-27 is normal because it can help decrease the risk of osteoporosis over age 65.
Does My BMI Indicate My Overall Health?
Many factors contribute to your overall health, and BMI is just one of those factors. However, most doctors agree that a BMI of over 30 is not healthy. Your overall health risk will depend on a wide variety of things, including:
- Blood glucose (sugar) levels
- Cholesterol levels
- Blood pressure
Does BMI Work the Same Way for Everyone?
In general, as your BMI increases, so does your risk of certain diseases. However, BMI does not consider things like the difference between lean mass and body fat, or the location of body fat.
Therefore, it is not a direct indicator of excess body fat. Because of this, it is not always an accurate indicator of overall health for certain people groups.
For instance, people who naturally have a higher than average muscle mass due to their genetics may have a higher BMI despite being perfectly healthy. As a basic guideline, BMI is not a reliable indicator of health for children, athletes, the elderly, or pregnant women.
Why is BMI Necessary?
You cannot improve what you cannot measure. While BMI is not a direct measure of excess body fat, it generally indicates how much fat you have and how much fat you have to lose. It is a number that can help you monitor progress and be aware of risks. Therefore, the medical community frequently utilizes your BMI to help evaluate your overall risk of weight-related diseases and health conditions.
BMI can help you better understand your risks by placing you in a certain weight category. Doctors can use the experiences of other people in that weight category to help understand what health conditions you may be at risk of developing. While BMI is not the only risk indicator tool out there, it is a useful one and forms an excellent starting point for understanding health risks.
Does a High BMI Mean I Need Weight Loss Surgery?
Studies show that if you have a BMI between 35 and 39.9 and have obesity-related issues like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, or sleep apnea, weight loss surgery could help. You may benefit from bariatric (weight loss) surgery if you:
- Have a BMI of over 35 and suffer from severe weight-related conditions
- Have not been able to achieve or maintain a healthy weight
- Are 100 pounds or more overweight
- Have a BMI of over 40
Remember, BMI alone is not always an accurate indicator of overall health, but these basic guidelines can help you understand where you stand in terms of your overall health and weight.
Does a High BMI Put Me at Risk?
As a rule, yes, a high BMI does indicate a higher level of health risk. If your BMI is too high, you may have an elevated risk of developing any of the following diseases:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Heart Disease
- High Cholesterol and blood lipids (LDL)
- Sleep Apnea
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Gastroesophageal Re-flux (GERD)
- Urinary Stress Incontinence
- Female Infertility
- Obesity Hypo-ventilation Syndrome
If you have a BMI of over 40 with any of these conditions, you may be a good candidate for weight loss surgery. We would be happy to discuss your options with you and help you determine which procedure would most benefit you. Contact us to schedule a consultation.