Nearly 40 years ago, less than 15 person of all adults over the age of 20 in the entire world were thought to be obese. Nowadays, our obesity rates are higher than ever. Nearly 30 percent of all adults over 20 in the entire world are considered obese.
Research has shown that the obesity rate in both adults and children has gone up twice as much as it was in the 1980s. This makes decreasing these numbers one of the biggest priorities out there. The goal is to cut down the amount of people who fall into the overweight and obese ranges when referring to the body mass index (BMI).
But how is your BMI calculated? Body mass index values are calculated by using a formula that takes your weight and compares it to your height. This however, may not be the best way to measure obesity rates worldwide.
This is because it does not take into consideration every unique situation that exists, it does not take into considering age, gender and other situations that may affect the current results. Studies have long since proven that your weight is not made up simply of body fat. Bone density, muscle mass and fluid retention are all factors that can add to a person's weight.
Consider this – the body mass index measurements do not take into consideration that a bodybuilder will naturally way more than a regular person of the same height. Even if that bodybuilder eats a healthy diet, his or her muscle mass will add on the additional pounds, likely causing that person to fall into the obese category, despite the fact that that person is probably extremely healthy and have very little risk of getting the obesity related diseases someone who is truly obese could be affected by.
Despite this, the body mass index chart is still used by doctors today as a useful tool that is capable of watching changes in a person's weight. It is also used as a helpful tool in tracking obesity rates worldwide.
Studies have proven that the higher your score on the body mass index is, the more likely you are to get obesity related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, digestive upset including acid reflux and gallstones, high blood pressure, breathing problems and sleep apnea, as well as several different forms of cancer.
The question still remains, however. Should you consider the body mass index as a reliable source of information in terms of your health or should you consider another way to make these measurements?
Next, we will compare the helpful information the BMI supplies, as well as the things that make it fall less reliable than we once thought. Should you be focusing solely on your weight, or should you be trying to add and maintain lean, healthy muscle as well?
Wait, I am confused. What Exactly is the Body Mass Index or BMI?
The body mass index is a tool used to measure a person's body fat in comparison to their weight and height. It is used my doctors to measure this information in both women and men of all age groups, including children. This means that your body mass index score really should not change too much as you get older.
When your primary care physician uses the body mass index, he or she is not only using it to measure your body fat, but they are also using it as a tool to determine if you are at risk for diseases linked to obesity and obesity itself. Your primary care physician will also take a look at your waist circumference measurements and your labs, such as your cholesterol levels and how high your blood pressure levels are.
These together are all things that can help a doctor to determine if you are at risk for diseases and obesity. So in a way, the body mass index is not the only thing doctors rely on to determine your risk factors when it comes to your weight.
But How Exactly Does My Doctor Determine My Body Mass Index?
As we stated above, your body mass index is calculated by using a formula that takes your weight and compares it to your height. While there are many generic body mass index calculators available online, doctors use a slightly more complex formula. However, the results remain the same.
You are considered underweight if you have a body mass index score lower than 18.5, however, many doctors believe that a score of 19 is more reliable as underweight, because so few people are actually considered to have a healthy weight and score a body mass index score of 18.5.
If your body mass index score falls between 18.5 and 24.9 you are considered to be in a normal weight range. You are considered overweight if your body mass index score is between 25 and 29.9 and if your body mass index is 30 or higher, you are considered obese.
However, gender also plays a role in your body mass index score and that it what a lot of the online calculators fail to include. For example, an adult woman that is 65 inches tall should weigh between 114 and 144 pounds to fall into the normal range. If she weighed between 150 and 174 pounds she would be considered overweight and if she weighed over 180 pounds she would be considered obese.
However, a man that is 72 inches tall would be considered within a normal range if he weighed between 140 and 177 pounds. If he weighed between 184 and 213, he would be considered overweight and anything over 220 pounds would be considered obese.
But Why Was The BMI Chart Created? And How Did These Four Categories Come To Be?
The body mass index chart was created in the 1940s as a tool to help adults reach their ideal body weight. The difference back then was that the chart also took into consideration a person's build. A petite woman would have a different ideal weight than that of a larger or broader woman. However, these ideas were soon found to be flawed.
As time passed, people began to realize that the chart failed to take into consideration a person's age and that their genetics also play a role in their ideal body weight. Ever since the 1970s, the body mass index chart has been used more as a tool to make predictions, not a set in stone method to determine if a person was a risk for certain weight related illnesses.
However, the body mass index has been criticized a lot in that time. Though the tool is still used today, it is not used as consistently as it once was and though the chart is more accurate now, it is still flawed and people still tend to just use it loosely.
3 Reasons Body Mass Index Is Not as Reliable As People Think!
There is no lying that the body mass index chart can help track weight gain in a large percentage of people. However, it is not perfect. It is not always accurate with everyone. It definitely has its limits.
The main reason why your primary care physician still uses the body mass index when you come in for a visit is because it can still be used as a good tool to let them see if there is any indication that you may be at risk for weight related illnesses including high blood pressure, heart disease, high triglycerides, and diabetes, as well as other illnesses that can be linked to excessive weight gain.
When you gain additional weight, you are at a greater risk of developing these diseases, however, there is also the debate that these diseases may not be caused by the weight itself, but by the bad lifestyle and bad habits that come along with that weight gain.
Some of the flaws linked to the body mass index include the following:
1. If you have a muscular build or if you are an athlete, the body mass index may say you have more body fat than you really do: This is one of the biggest flaws with the body mass index. The chart does not take into consideration that not all of the weight you carry is body fat. Muscle mass adds up as well. The chart also does not take into consideration your gender differences, including where that fat is being stored and that there are some locations on the body where the stored fat is more harmful as compared to where it is not as dangerous.
Your ethnicity also plays a role in how you carry weight. If you are from African or Asian descent, you may have a smaller frame than someone who is of a Native American or Hispanic descent. This means that you will fall into a different category on the body mass index chart than someone of a different descent that weighs the same amount as you.Another thing to consider is that if you go on to lose weight quickly, such as binge workouts or crash diets, you stand to not only lose body fat, but bone mass and muscle mass as well.
2. If you are older, the body mass index chart may not calculate your body fat correctly if you have also lost muscle mass: As you age, your body naturally loses muscle mass. This can play a role in whether you gain or lose weight, based on what your lifestyle is like.
Now, if you lose weight while losing muscle mass, you may fall into the healthy range on the body mass index chart, but in reality, you may not be at a healthy weight at all. While you may think losing weight is a good thing, especially when you are older, it has been proven that having more muscle is a lot healthier for you as you age.
3. If you have fallen into the overweight category, you may not actually be unhealthy: Recent studies have shown that adults who fall into the overweight category may not be as unhealthy as people once made it seem and they may not be at any added risk to run into weight related health problems as someone who falls into the normal range.Some research suggests that overweight people may actually have a lower risk of death than someone who falls into the normal range.
While achieving your ideal, healthy weight is always the way to go, some research suggests that if your body mass index is between 25 and 35, despite being considered overweight, you are at no added risk of all-cause mortality. With that said, if you fall into the overweight category, as long as you do not have more than 2 risk factors and your waist measurement is not high, your goal should be to prevent adding any additional weight, rather than trying to lose the weight you currently carry.
This is one of the main reasons it is recommended to speak to your primary care physician to see if you are at risk of any obesity related illnesses and if you should focus on losing the weight or maintaining that weight as it is.
Do Doctors Use Body Mass Index Chart to Measure Children's BMI as Well?
While the body mass index chart is one of the best ways to see if there has been significant weight gain overtime, however, in the United States for example, it is not used as commonly in children as it is with adults. There are several reasons pediatricians choose not to use or rely on the body mass index to determine if a child is overweight.
Some of these reasons include the fact that some doctors do not find the body mass index as a reliable tool when measuring a child's weight, but also that there is not always time to carry out additional testing if a child does fall into the overweight category, not wanting the tell a child they are overweight when they are at a very impressionable age, and not having good advice to tell parents when it comes to helping their child lose weight if they do fall into the overweight or obese category.
Your Body Type is Your Best Tool To Figure Out Your Ideal Body Weight!
You may have picked up on a trend here. Your body mass index score alone cannot determine your overall health. While it may be a good tool to give you an idea of where your health is headed, it does not give you solid facts. Instead of focusing on how you score within the body mass index chart, you should be spending your time and energy bettering your body as a whole.
You can do this by maintaining lean, healthy muscle mass as you get older and by shaving the fat in the dangerous areas such as around your waist. No matter what you may weigh right now, if you start adopting healthier eating habits and pick up regular exercise and stop eating all of that processed food, your health will improve in many ways.
Now we will touch base on three ways you can achieve your ideal weight and determine what it is in the first place.
1. Pay Attention to Your Harmful Fat Areas
If your score on the body mass index chart has suddenly changed greatly or if you are suddenly carrying additional weight around your waist and midsection, there is a good chance you are in fact overweight. If you have suddenly stopped working out as much or if you have suddenly changed your diet, that may be the cause of the extra weight.
If you are carrying a lot of weight in your midsection, it is a sign that you are carrying visceral fat, which is dangerous and is a risk factor for countless diseases. The scientific definition of visceral fat is “excess intra-abdominal adipose tissue accumulation”.
In simpler terms, that means this fat is stored deep within the belly fat and can actually wrap around important organs such as the kidneys, liver and pancreas. Yikes!
If you carry a lot of weight around your middle, you are at a higher risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. That is what makes this added weight so dangerous. If you are a woman, your risk increases when you have a waist that is larger than 35 inches and if you are a man, your risk increases if you have a waist that is larger than 40 inches.
You can find out your measurements by taking a tape measure and measuring around your midsection, right above your hip bones. You then take your measurements as you exhale.
2. Keep Tabs on Raised Levels That May Indicate You Are At Risk For Metabolic Diseases
In addition to watching your weight, you also need to make sure you take the necessary measures to improve the below listed conditions that may put you at risk for chronic diseases as you age. This is especially true if these levels fall above a range that is considered healthy.
Next time you see your primary care physician, talk to him or her about what you can do to understand, track and improve the following conditions including high blood pressure, high blood glucose, high LDL cholesterol (also known as bad cholesterol), low HDL cholesterol (which is known as the good cholesterol), and high triglycerides.
By knowing what each of these levels mean and by knowing what they can potentially put you at risk for, you may be able to improve your overall health with simple lifestyle changes.
3. Reduce Your Risk of Becoming Obese
In addition to what we just talked about, also make sure you are tracking the things that can put you at risk for weight related illnesses. You are going to want to consider whether you have a family history of any obesity related health problems, if you smoke cigarettes, if you are exposed to toxins, if you lead a stressful lifestyle, if you lead a lifestyle that does not include a lot of movement, and if you eat a diet that contains a lot of processed foods.
One of the easiest ways to improve your health as you age is to make sure you get up, get out and exercise as often as you can. If you do not change your lifestyle as a whole, exercise alone will not lead to weight loss, but it does offer a lot of other benefits, especially as you get older. As you age, your muscle strength and muscle mass starts to deteriorate.
If you use strength training, you can prevent this and even reverse it, therefore helping you keep within a healthy weight range. Exercise also protects you from depression and may even help prevent diabetes!
If you are looking to burn fat in the dangerous areas, research has shown that high-intensity resistance training may be the way to go. If you are looking to get the most benefits out of your workout regime, it is recommended that you get a minimum of 2 and a half hours of moderate exercise each week.
Keep in mind that moderate exercise refers to exercise that raises your heart rate to between 64 and 76 percent of your maximum heart rate. This is based on several different factors, including your weight, age, and overall health.
BMI: Long Story Short
The body mass index is a tool used to measure a person's weight against their height. If you score less than an 18.5 on the body mass index, you are considered underweight, whereas you are considered overweight if you score between a 25 and 29.9. You are considered normal if you score between 18.5 and 24.5 and you are considered obese if you score a 30 or more.
There are many things that can make the body mass index an unreliable source when it comes down to your ideal weight. Some of these things include the composition of your body, the amount of body mass you have, your age, your gender, your ethnicity and genetics, as well as other factors including your cholesterol levels, sugar levels, and waist measurements.
Instead of using the body mass index to figure out your health and what your ideal weight is, you can start leading a healthier lifestyle, eating a healthier diet, reducing the amount of fat in your midsection, gaining and maintaining lean muscles, and taking care to track and improve your blood pressure, triglycerides and blood sugar.
Overall, while the body mass index may be able to give you an idea of where you stand weight wise and may give you an indicator that you may be at risk for weight related health problems, there is still a lot to take into consideration.
The body mass index may prove to be a good place to start, but if you are not willing to make changes to your lifestyle, you will not see any weight loss results. And as always, remember to talk to your primary care physician before making any major changes to your lifestyle, diet and exercise routine!