Numbers don’t define a person. But some numbers can definitely help determine your risk of heart disease.
Your body mass index, or BMI, is one such number. It is a simple calculation to find out the amount of fat in your body. When you know your BMI, you can figure out if your weight is appropriate for your height.1 As per the World Health Organization (WHO), in many countries, more people die due to complications resulting from excess weight than from being underweight.2
Let’s get calculating
Determining your BMI is not rocket science. You don’t even require a scientific calculator. Your phone is enough. You just need to know your weight in kilograms and your height in metres.
If you know your weight in pounds, convert it to kilograms by multiplying it with 0.45 (because 1 pound = 0.45 kg). If you know your height in feet, convert it to metres simply by multiplying it with 0.3 (1 foot = 0.3 metres). Square your height by multiplying it by itself.
To calculate the BMI value, divide your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres. Voila! You have a magic number that will help you ascertain how healthy you are, and whether you need to take measures to keep your heart functioning in the long run.1 So if the answer is 22, that means your BMI is 22 kg/m2.
The implication of all that maths
Now that you know your body mass index, what does it really tell you? The BMI value will help you differentiate between healthy weight, overweight and obesity. If the value is below 25, you don’t have much to worry about. However, if the value is greater than or even equal to 25, it implies that you might be on the higher side of the risk scale. A value between 25 and 30 means you are overweight. If the value goes beyond 30, it signals obesity and calls for immediate action to reduce weight.2
BMI takes into consideration your height, so it can give you an average weight range for a particular height. If you consult your doctor, they can provide you with even more personalised details from your BMI value as per the build of your body and your medical history. For instance, Asians have a higher risk of heart conditions than other ethnicities. Or, in another example, if a muscular person has a high BMI, they may not necessarily be at risk. Since muscle is denser than fat, they are perfectly healthy even though their BMI is high.2
Why does BMI matter?
A high body mass index can be a sign that you are at high risk for conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart diseases such as heart attack and stroke, hypertension, and gallstones. An article published in 2018 stated that obesity is associated with abnormal cholesterol levels in 60%-70% of people. However, about 50%-60% of the people who are overweight have been diagnosed with atypical cholesterol levels at some time in their life.3, 4
The best way to keep your BMI in check is to shed the excess weight. Get active, get going, and burn the kilos to keep these health risks at bay. Even limiting the number of calories you take in helps. Once again, it’s simple math: the fewer calories you take in, the more total calories you will burn, leading to an overall reduction in the fat content of your body. Reducing your calorie intake by just 500 each day can also help you to bring your BMI within the healthy range.3
So, determine your BMI, consult your doctor, and take charge of your health.
- What is the body mass index (BMI)? [Internet]. [updated 2019 Jul 15; cited 2019 Aug 01]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/what-is-the-body-mass-index-bmi/.
- Obesity and overweight [Internet]. 2018 Feb 16. [cited 2019 Aug 01]. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight.
- Why is a healthy weight important? [Internet]. [cited 2019 Aug 01]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/index.htm.
- Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Boyce A, Chrousos G, Dungan K, Grossman A, et al., editors. Obesity and dyslipidemia. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000- [cited 2019 Aug 01]. Available from: NCBI Bookshelf.