Body Mass Index as One Health Indicator
You may ask yourself, who are you to tell me that I am overweight or obese since I don’t believe I am overweight? While every person has ultimate sovereignty over his or her own body, the actual facts state otherwise whether we accept it or not. So how is being overweight or obese determined and defined since you may believe that you are healthy person. The first step in weight loss through healthy living is to find out your Body Mass Index (BMI). The concept of being at given body weight arises from guidelines that researched into risk factors that contributed to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other medical conditions conducted by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) in association with National Institute of Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). These recent guideline updated from their preceding 1998, 2005 guidelines and later findings provide more accurate limits for ideal and non-ideal body weights.
These guidelines are product of evaluation and assessment of various risks in many medical conditions defined being overweight or obese in terms of Body Mass Index or BMI. Body Mass Index (BMI) is term that is familiar to many, especially anyone who has taken part in formal commercial diet program and the like, is based on person’s height and weight. The weight to height ratio is highly correlated with total body fat in person’s body. The higher the BMI number, the greater percentage of fat content within a person’s body. There is exception to this given rule, namely, in certain athletes and body builder who have high BMI, but less than normal fat percentage or disproportionately low fat content in their bodies for their given BMI. In other words, their high BMI does not arise from fat tissue, but from increased muscle mass and supporting tissues in their bodies.
In addition, the general BMI can be further categorized based on person’s bone structure or body frame to small, medium or large body frame. The rationale behind this division is quite simple in that larger-boned person or large body frame requires more muscle and connective tissues to support, sustain, and function compared to small-boned person or small body frame. Nonetheless, in most cases, these distinctions are readily addressed in using a standardized BMI formula. Body mass index can be determined by this simple formula with weight (either naked or by subtracting 1-1.5 lbs. for comfortable clothing worn indoors like pajamas) and height (without any footwear) using the below formula using either English or metric measurement system:
These guidelines determined that unhealthy BMI, highly associated and significantly increased the risk factor for many medical conditions, was defined as above 25 for being overweight and above 30 for obese individuals. Moreover, individuals with body mass index above 40 are defined as morbidly obese and would require timely and prompt medical intervention to deal with serious medical issues and complications. Generally, BMI in range of 19-24 is considered in healthy range with minimal or no risk factor associated with various medical conditions. The most recent guideline has reduced the BMI defined as being overweight to 25 from previous guidelines that stated BMI of 28 and over as being overweight. Similarly, the BMI for being defined as obese has been reduced in the most recent guideline compared to its preceding guidelines. If your BMI is greater than 30, then you can be classified as being obese with increased risk factor for many health conditions. Hence, previous reports or data on overweight or obese population in U.S.A. may have underreported the actual extent of population with unhealthy weights.
Interestingly, the concept of BMI even though not set in formula as discussed above has been known and empirically used since ancient times in various civilizations to determine one’s longevity or types of health at certain weights based on height and constituents of body composition, most notably by ancient Greeks, traditional Chinese medicine, and East Indians with Aryuvedic medicine. Moreover, insurance companies routinely use basic data of height and weight along with other criteria to evaluate risks, for underwriting policies, and setting premiums for personal insurance needs of individuals and families. Thus, a person should determine and understand their current BMI number as objective piece of data to know if Weight Loss through Health Living is required course of action for them.
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