Chances are that you have heard about the term BMI somewhere; may be at a gym or at a doctor’s clinic. Doctors, health professionals and fitness experts often use BMI (Body Mass Index) to get an idea of the overall health of an individual.
While this calculation applies in the same way to both adult men and women, there are some important things women should know when using BMI for assessment of their weight.
What is BMI?
BMI stands for Body Mass Index. It is a numerical value that defines your weight in relation to your height. It is an indicator of the total body fat in most adults.
This estimate is often used as a screening tool to determine if the person has a healthy weight. Too much of body fat puts you at an increased risk of health problems like cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.
Body Mass Index is calculated by dividing the weight of a person in kilograms by the square of the height in metres. Based on this value, the weight of an individual is categorized into one of these:
Below 18.5 – Underweight
18.5 – 24.9 – Healthy Weight
25 – 29.9 – Overweight
Above 30 – Obese
Obesity is, today, recognized as one of the major causes of life-threatening medical conditions. Therefore, it is beneficial to know where your weight stands. Though BMI is a simple calculation based on your weight and height, it can give a good estimate of your body fat and overall health. If you are overweight or obese, you can make efforts to bring down your BMI to save yourself from chronic diseases in the future.
What Does Your BMI Mean?
While Body Mass Index is a simple estimate, it suggests a lot about your weight and health. It can be used as an indication of your risk of cardiovascular diseases and chronic conditions. Understanding the interpretation of your BMI also helps you achieve an ideal value and move towards a healthy weight that ensures good health.
Though there are some special cases where BMI estimate becomes unreliable, here are the interpretations that work for a majority of the normal population.
A BMI value that is less than 18.5 means you are underweight. Having a lower weight than healthy ranges can be associated with a number of health issues. Chances are that you are suffering from malnutrition or anaemia and have increased risk of developing physical and mental problems. You can discuss your weight with your physician to find out if it poses any risk to your health.
BMI values in the range 18.5 to 24.9 are considered to be healthy or normal. This means your weight is healthy and there is no risk of chronic diseases. You should try and keep up the good work by following a healthy diet and exercise regime to stay away from any dangers in the future.
BMI estimates between 25 and 29.9 suggest that you are overweight. Excessive weight in the body can lead to a plethora of health concerns including an increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.
A higher body fat percentage puts you at risk of a number of chronic health problems.
If you have a lot of fat around the abdomen or internal organs, it is more dangerous. Additional measures like waist circumference can give you a better idea of how unhealthy your weight is. You can discuss the issue with your physician or dietician who can suggest on how to lose some weight to lower your BMI.
Results over 30 in BMI calculation means you are obese. This weight is known to be responsible for increased risks of diabetes and heart failure. If you are concerned about being overweight, you can consult your practitioner who can give suggestions about losing weight.
You can start by losing a small percentage of your weight as it can make a lot of difference to your health. Highly obese people can even get surgeries if recommended by doctors.
BMI in Women – What You Should Know?
While BMI calculations and categorization are the same for adult men and women, there are differences in the ideal weights of the two genders. A study suggests that a healthy BMI for men is 22.5 while it is 21 for women. There is a difference in ideal weights for man and woman as well. This is because females have a different body composition as compared to males.
Men have more muscle mass while women naturally have more body fat. The difference in body shape also affects the interpretation of BMI in women. Women mostly have pear-shaped bodies while men have broad shoulders and are rectangular in shape. These differences affect the way we carry weight in our bodies.
BMI charts offer an effective way to determine the weight and overall health of women. However, the interpretations can be different depending on a variety of factors. For example, BMI estimates can be unreliable for aged women. This is because you lose muscle mass and store more fat as you age. So your BMI value can be healthy even when you have a lot of fat in the body.
Another factor that affects BMI is the fat storage. Different women have different areas storing fat in the body. Some women store fat in their thighs while others have it in their abdominal area. This is why it is good to use some other method like waist circumference measurement to assess the risks posed by higher body fat percentage. Fat stored around the stomach is more dangerous than weight carried at thighs and hips.
Apart from this, BMI estimates should not be used to assess the health of pregnant women. A woman needs to gain weight during pregnancy to give birth to a healthy baby. You can seek advice from your doctor regarding healthy weight if you are pregnant.
Athletes and bodybuilder females have a different body composition and shape than normal women. This is why their BMI values should not be interpreted like others. Athletic women may have more weight and their BMI can be higher. But they are actually fit and healthy and have low body fat.
However, other factors like genes and lifestyle habits can influence the risks of cardiovascular diseases. So, it is advisable to use advanced methods of weight assessment for athletic women to analyze risks.