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Maintaining good health keeps us joyful whereas failing health steals our joy and can often rob us of quality time with our loved ones.  These days we are all more in tune with creating and developing healthy habits that will last a lifetime.  One healthy habit is to understand and monitor the impact of weight management and maintenance as predictors of current and future health status.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measurement tool that uses a formula to identify weight status based on a calculation using a person’s weight and height.   BMI is used as a diagnostic screening tool by healthcare professionals to assess and determine the potential for future health risks.

BMI is classified into four standardized categories of weight status:

  1. Underweight – below 18.5
  2. Normal weight – 18.5 – 24.9
  3. Overweight – 25.0 – 29.9
  4. Obese – 30 or greater (when BMI is > 30 it is further classified as: severe, morbid, or super obese)

Risk factors associated with an unhealthy BMI include:  high blood pressure, high blood glucose, high cholesterol levels, respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease and the potential for a reduced life expectancy.  The higher your BMI, the greater the risk of diseases associated with carrying the increased body fat on your frame.

Weight loss is a struggle.  Trust me I know!  However, even small weight losses, of 5-10 percent of current weight, positively influence a lower risk of obesity-associated disease.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) offers a BMI Calculator for adults age 20 and older.  For adults, BMI is calculated the same for men and women.  Simply enter your height and weight then compute the BMI. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/BMI/bmicalc.htm

Childhood obesity is increasing at a rapid rate in the United States.  Although the BMI calculation is the same for children and adults (height and weight), the method of interpretation differs for children and teens and utilizes percentiles based on the child’s sex and age.

WebMD and Sanford Health Systems offer a FitKid’s BMI Calculator for children and teens (ages 2-19).  You will need to enter the child’s gender, birthdate, height and weight to calculate.  http://www.webmd.com/parenting/raising-fit-kids/weight/bmi/bmi-calculator

The weight status and percentiles for children and teens are classified as follows:

  1. Underweight – less than the 5th percentile
  2. Healthy weight – 5th to less than the 85th percentile
  3. Overweight – 85th to less than the 95th percentile
  4. Obese – equal to or greater than the 95th percentile

BMI interpretation examples for a 10 year old boy are provided below:

Growch chart example showing range of different BMI percentiles for height and age.

Today there are numerous ways to easily calculate BMI whether you use an online calculator such as the NHLBI BMI Calculator (for adults) or WebMD FitKid’s BMI Calculator (for children and teens), an app, a weight scale that offers BMI or body fat measurements or other fitness gadgets.   In an effort to achieve a normal BMI weight status, if you are overweight or underweight, adopting the habit of computing BMI as a health monitoring tool may be useful for you, your children or your family.