Every day, millions of people visit their primary healthcare provider for a quick physical check-up. Even in urban setups, the ratio of the healthcare worker to patients is not very promising. Thus, what do these healthcare workers do to quickly but effectively screen their patients for any medical conditions?
They rely on tools such as Body Mass Index.
The BMI uses the person’s height and weight to arrive at a score that can be put into a particular weight category. The weight categories are- underweight, healthy weight, overweight, and obesity. A person’s weight in terms of body fat is often linked to their overall physical health. Hence, the BMI becomes an important tool to get a quick understanding of a person’s health.
How does one calculate their BMI?
Let’s take a look at the formula used by the Body Mass Index calculator. The standard BMI calculator uses this formula:
BMI= weight (kg) / [height (m)]2 OR
BMI= weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703.
The formula you use depends on the metric system you choose to measure your weight and height.
What does the BMI score mean in adults?
The BMI score of the individual will fall under one of 4 categories. If their score is below 18.5, then they will be considered ‘underweight’. If it lies between 18.5 – 24.9, then it will be considered as ‘healthy weight’. If it is between 25.0 – 29.9, then it will be considered ‘overweight’. For a score of 30.0 and above, the weight category is ‘obese’.
These weight categories are applicable only to adults aged 20 and older. It is not applicable for body builders, long distance runners/athletes, pregnant people, or the elderly.
For children, BMI is interpreted differently.
What does the BMI score mean in children?
In children and teenagers, the BMI is interpreted based on their age and sex assigned at birth. This is keeping in mind the fact that the body fat changes as per age, and there is a significant difference between the amount of body fat between males and females.
Here, the child or teenager’s BMI is shown as a percentile ranking. This percentile is based on representative data collected over the years. When the individual’s BMI falls at or above the 95th percentile of that age and gender’s reference population, then they are considered ‘obese’.
It is important to note that the BMI is not a good estimate of health for bodybuilders, many athletes, the elderly and pregnant people as their body composition differs due to the nature of their profession, age, and life stage.
What does one do with their BMI score?
Once you calculate your BMI and know your weight category, you can consult with your healthcare worker based on the category. If you fall in any weight category apart from ‘healthy weight’, then it would be a good idea to ask your doctor if further assessments of your physical health are needed. For example, if you are underweight, then do you need supplements?
At the end of the day, just remember that your BMI is one of many indicators of your physical health, and you need to consider it with a pinch of salt!