Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measurement often used to determine an individual’s overall health. BMI is determined by dividing a person’s weight (in kilograms) by their height (in meters) squared. For example, if I’m 5′ 10″ and weigh 175 lbs, this would be 79.4 kilograms and 1.78 meters. If I plugged these numbers into the equation, it would look like this:
BMI isn’t the perfect screening tool because it does not actually measure body fat or actual health- this information requires further assessment by a healthcare provider. Individuals with extra muscle mass such as athletes may be perfectly healthy, but have a high BMI because muscle is not accounted for. From the example above, a BMI of 25.06 would be considered overweight, but there are other factors to consider. A 5′ 10″ individual could weigh 175 lbs with 30% body fat or weigh the same 175 lbs and have 10% body fat. Two individuals with very different health statuses, but the same BMI.
Overweight or obese individuals are at increased risk for high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea, depression, and some cancers (endometrial, breast, colon, liver).1