Health Topics

Body Mass Index

One of the most common topics patients address with their doctors is weight loss.

What is Body Mass Index?

One of the most common topics patients address with their doctors is weight loss. One-third of Americans today are overweight. Exceeding an ideal body weight is caused by genetic, socioeconomic, and physiological factors. However, doctors today see excess weight as an important, treatable medical condition.

There are several ways of measuring your ideal body weight. One of the most popular methods to gauge whether or not you are overweight is the body mass index (BMI). Body mass index (BMI) is calculated by:

  • Dividing a person's weight (in kilograms) by his or her height (in meters, squared).
  • BMI can also be calculated by multiplying weight (in pounds) by 705, then dividing by height (in inches) twice.

People with BMIs of 25 and above are considered to be overweight. The figure at which your height corresponds with your weight is your body mass index. Having a body mass index over 30 places you at risk for developing obesity-related medical conditions such as:

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • coronary artery disease

A BMI over 40 indicates that a person is morbidly obese.

Does being overweight lead to any medical risks?

The best reason to attain and maintain your ideal weight is to reduce or eliminate medical problems that are more likely to occur with increasing weight. These conditions include:

All of these conditions contribute to an overall increase in mortality (rate of death).

Are treatment plans available to help me lose weight?

There have been many treatment plans — from diets to pills — aimed at reducing weight. However, being overweight is a chronic condition and therefore needs a long-term plan aimed at weight reduction.

Your doctor or registered dietician is the ideal person to initiate and monitor an organized treatment plan for you. This treatment plan should center on behavior modification. There are also many community organizations and resources for gathering information on weight loss.

What steps should I take to help me lose weight?

  • Decide you want to permanently lose weight.
  • Educate yourself.
  • Have a realistic goal in mind.
  • Formulate a structured treatment plan with your doctor and receive proper follow-up.
  • Understand that obesity is a long-term condition and it will require life-long attention.