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Understanding the Body Mass Index

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Understanding the Body Mass Index

One of the keys to living a healthy lifestyle is knowing your numbers — weight, height, cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure.

Another important number is the body mass index (BMI). Although it does not actually measure the percentage of body fat, this screening tool is used to estimate a healthy body weight based on a person's height.

Here is some handy information on calculating and understanding your BMI, plus tips on managing your weight.

How to Calculate BMI

Norman Regional Health System’s Journey Clinic offers an easy-to-use BMI calculator for adults. All you need to do is enter your height and weight into the fields and push “Calculate BMI.”

You will receive a number that indicates whether you are underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese.

  • Underweight: Less than 18.5
  • Normal weight: 18.5 to 24.9
  • Overweight: 25 to 29.9
  • Obese: 30 to 39.9
  • Extremely obese: 40 or greater

Please note: BMI is calculated differently for children and teens. Speak with your child’s medical provider if you have concerns about your child’s weight.

Got Your BMI? Now What?

Calculating your BMI allows you to better gauge your risk for developing certain diseases. Being overweight or obese puts you at a higher risk for developing high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and breathing problems.

Please note that there are some limitations with BMI. For example:

  • BMI may underestimate the amount of body fat in older people and those who have lost muscle.
  • BMI may overestimate the amount of body fat in people with a muscular build or in athletes.

In addition to your BMI, measuring your waist circumference can also help assess your risk for developing certain chronic conditions. To do this, measure just above your hipbones in your mid-section after you breathe out. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease increases with a waist size greater than 35 inches for women and greater than 40 inches for men.

Schedule an appointment with your primary care provider if you are concerned about your weight and/or your risk of developing chronic medical conditions. Your provider can better assess your risk factors and help you determine if you would benefit from any lifestyle changes.  

Tips on Managing Your Weight

If you are overweight or obese, losing weight — even a small amount — can reduce your risk of developing certain medical conditions and may boost your mood and improve your breathing and sleep.

Healthy lifestyle changes you can make today:

  • Keep a journal. Write down what you eat and drink each day and log your physical activities and their duration so you can more clearly track your dietary choices and activity levels.
  • Stay active. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week — that’s about 20 to 30 minutes each day.
  • Commit to healthier eating and drinking. When making food choices, fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables; choose whole grains; opt for low-fat or fat-free dairy products; drink water and low-fat milk instead of sugar-sweetened or artificially sweetened drinks; [JH3]eat lean protein sources; and examine the portion sizes on food items. Also, avoid drinking too much alcohol.
  • Quit smoking or using tobacco products.
  • Get plenty of rest[JH4]Insufficient sleep is linked to several chronic conditions, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and depression. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should receive at least seven hours of sleep each night.
  • Manage your stress. Chronic or long-term stress can have harmful effects on your overall health if not managed properly. Determine the cause of your stress and make a plan to address it. This may include relaxation techniques, increasing activity levels, getting adequate sleep, staying organized and asking for help.

When losing weight, it’s important to make goals that are specific and can be achieved. 

A quick tip from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: A reasonable and safe weight loss is about one to two pounds per week. This will make it easier to maintain the weight loss.

Looking for Weight-loss Help?

If you or a loved one are looking for help creating a weight-loss plan, the providers at Journey Clinic — Norman Regional Health System’s comprehensive weight-loss program — may be able to assist. The clinic offers medical and surgical options for patients wanting to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle.