What Does BMI Really Mean?

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You might have heard about body mass index or BMI, for short. With the increasing health-conscious population, most people have already know their BMI like it is their favorite song. But in case you do not know, BMI can easily be calculated using this formula:

Body mass index is used to assess your body. It accounts for your weight in relation to your height. So why is it worth noting? Without any special equipment, BMI is one of the easiest ways to evaluate your body structure. Body mass index can be classified into underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obese using standard charts from World Health Organization. Normal weight is associated with healthy well-being and longevity, while the other three classifications may indicate increased risk for lifestyle diseases such as cancer, diabetes mellitus, or cardiovascular diseases.

Below is the World Health Organization BMI Classification:

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In the Philippines, current study shows that 3 out of 10 Filipino adults are overweight and obese. This is concurrent with the increasing prevalence of lifestyle diseases in the country.

So, is BMI important? Body mass index is easy to do and interpret, but it only gives you a snippet of your overall health. Body mass index is not a perfect test. Therefore, you cannot rely solely on BMI in assessing your health and risk for developing diseases. And at certain times, BMI may not matter at all.

Body mass index only indicates the relationship of your current weight with your height. It cannot measure your blood pressure, lipid profile, or even blood glucose level that indicates the presence of or absence of a disease. The picture of one’s health is more complex than what you think it is.

A person with normal BMI who smokes and has a strong familial history of diabetes mellitus or cardiovascular disease may have greater risk of developing those disease than a person with higher BMI, engages in physical activity, and does not smoke.

Also, BMI cannot determine your fat and muscle distribution, which is important in gauging whether you are metabolically healthy or not. People with BMI of 25 may have less muscles and too much fat around the abdomen area which can lead to insulin resistance and chronic inflammation. And since BMI largely rely on weight, this assessment cannot be used on people with more muscle mass like athletes and pregnant women. Obviously, they will be wrongly classified as overweight or obese.

The bottom line? Body mass index is not a perfect measure of health given its limitations. But, it is still a useful initial assessment of your body. This test should be coupled with other measurements to fully assess your health.

 


Anna Christine P. Rome
Karen Ramos