A lot of things factor into how much you weigh, including your environment, family history, genetics, behavior, habits and metabolism. However, there is one fast and easy way to find out if you are at a healthy weight. A BMI calculator can quickly and easily give you information about your health. Find out what your BMI is and what it means for you!
What is a BMI?
A BMI, or body mass index, is an estimation of how much body fat you have. Body fat builds when your body’s energy balance is off. Your body gets energy from the foods you eat. When you consume food, your body breaks it down into glucose using insulin. That glucose goes into your muscle’s cells and is further broken down into energy. This energy is a combination of heat and adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, a tiny molecule that holds and releases energy as your body needs it.
To maintain any weight, the amount of calories you consume must equal the amount of calories your body burns during the day. Your body is always burning calories during processes like breathing, digesting and just functioning overall. To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume. Weight gain happens when you consume more calories than you burn.
How do you find your BMI?
You can quickly find your BMI if you know your height and weight. The calculator is a free and easy way to determine if there are concerns about your weight. The CDC offers an easy-to-use BMI calculator that can calculate it for you. If you’re into math, the formula is your weight in pounds divided by your height in inches squared and multiplied by 703.
Weight (lb) / [Height (in)]2 x 703
The BMI calculator or the equation should give you a double digit number that’s usually between 18 and 35 and rounded to the nearest tenth.
What does my BMI mean?
The BMI chart is broken up into four categories:
According to the CDC, the BMI charts are divided up based on how a body mass index category is associated with diseases and mortality.
Your BMI and Your Health
Obesity and being overweight are the cause of many serious conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, high “bad” LDL cholesterol or low “good” HDL cholesterol. Other problems include type 2 diabetes, breathing problems, gallstones, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and multiple cancers. A healthy diet, small calorie reductions, staying physically active and limiting how long you are sedentary all help keep your weight in check.
The BMI of teenagers and children can be calculated with the same equation, but the results have to be interpreted differently due to the changes in body fat as children age and the difference in body fat between girls and boys. The CDC offers a BMI calculator for teens and children.
Problems with BMI Calculators
A BMI is not an immediate diagnosis of health problems; it’s simply the first step in managing your weight. It’s important to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your BMI. The correlation between your BMI and your actual body fat can vary by sex, race and age. In general, men have less body fat than women. Young adults have less body fat than older people. Athletes have higher BMIs than the general public because of their muscle mass.
Your weight combines muscle and fat, and a BMI calculator can’t tell the difference. A muscular person will have a higher BMI than correlates with their actual body fat. Other BMI methods might be better suited for athletes and other muscular people. The BMI calculators also underestimate the body mass index of older people who have lost muscle mass.
Other methods to measure BMI include skinfold thickness, underwater weighing, bioelectrical impedance, dual-energy x-ray absorption (DXA) and isotope dilution.
Other Signs of Weight Issues
Waist circumference is a tool that works similarly to a BMI calculator. Fat in the abdominal area can be a precursor of obesity-related diseases. Women with a waist circumference greater than 35 inches (88 centimeters) and men with a circumference greater than 40 inches (102 centimeters) are at a higher rate for obesity-related diseases according to the American Society for Nutrition. Pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure and inactivity can also be signs that you are at risk for obesity-related complications.
It’s time to take control of your weight! The Weight Loss Team at UnityPoint Health - Des Moines has surgical and non-surgical weight loss tools available to help you reach a healthy weight. Learn more about what they offer and find out if any of the programs are right for you!