The medical field is filled with a plethora of complex and confusing medical terms. You’ve likely heard one of these terms – the acronym BMI – during a doctor’s visit or even in the news. You may know that BMI stands for body mass index and that it relates to weight, but what exactly is BMI used for and how seriously do you need to consider your BMI and the BMI of your family members? Think of this as your comprehensive guide to all things BMI. Here you’ll learn what BMI means; how to calculate your numbers; and what is a healthy BMI in adults.
What’s the BMI?
BMI stands for body mass index, but you will almost always find it referred to simply as BMI. it is an estimate of how much body fat a person has, and it is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by his or her height in square meters.
Don’t be intimidated by number crunching – there are plenty of online calculators that generate your BMI when you enter your statistics. the resulting number can help you determine if you are at a healthy weight.
BMI has long been a popular tool for measuring body fat because it’s easy to use and doesn’t require any fancy equipment to calculate. However, there is a downside to this simplicity: it can sometimes provide an overly simplistic picture of your health.
What’s a Healthy BMI for Adults?
The Importance of a Healthy BMI
If you’re an adult, maintaining a normal BMI is critical to your future health, as a high BMI is associated with an increased risk of diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Among younger adults, obesity may even be responsible for increased rates of colorectal, endometrial, gallbladder, kidney, multiple myeloma and pancreatic cancers, according to a 2019 data analysis.
Calculating Your BMI
To calculate your BMI, divide your weight (in kilograms) by the square of your height (in meters).
If you live in the United States and do not use the metric system, you can also take the square of your height in inches, divide it by your weight in pounds, and multiply by 703.
For example, for a woman who weighs 140 pounds and is 63 inches tall, we can calculate her BMI like this:
- Height in inches squared: 63 x 63 = 3,969
- Weight divided by height squared: 140/3,969 = .03527
- .03527 x 703 = 24.79 BMI
What Is a Healthy BMI? A List of the Ranges
Here’s what your number means:
Below 18.5: underweight
18.5 to 24.9: normal
25 to 29.9: overweight
30 and over: obese
While the cut-off for BMI is the same regardless of gender or age, there are some differences. In general, women of all ages tend to have higher percentages of body fat compared to men of the same age group. And the older we are, the more weight we carry is usually higher in body fat and lower in muscle mass.