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  • Writer's pictureJackie Morrill-Faucher

BMI - A Tool to Screen for Health Problems

The CDC states that “Body Mass Index (BMI) is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters.” (1) A person's BMI is a way to screen for health problems. Although it is not diagnostic of the body fatness or health of an individual it is a great way to see if changes need to be made in one's lifestyle. Many people do not realize where they fall on the BMI chart and once they find out they are surprised they have a higher number than they thought. As Americans we live a fast paced, high stress lifestyle which increases our cortisone production which in return increases our body weight. We also have habits of eating our emotions rather than eating to fuel our bodies.

The table below shows weight status categories associated with BMI ranges for adults 20yrs and older and is for men and women for all body types and age.

BMI Weight Status

Below 18.5 Underweight

18.5 – 24.9 Normal or Healthy Weight

25.0 – 29.9 Overweight

30.0 and Above Obese

It's important to know that BMI is individualized, even though two people may have the same BMI it does not mean their body fat is the same. There are many factors that play a role such as age, gender, ethnicity and athletic status.

As adults obesity plays a huge role in your overall health. Below is a list from the CDC of conditions that one has an increased risk of when obese.

  1. All-causes of death

  2. High blood pressure

  3. High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides

  4. Type 2 diabetes

  5. Coronary heart disease

  6. Stroke

  7. Gallbladder disease

  8. Osteoarthritis (a breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint)

  9. Sleep apnea and breathing problems

  10. Chronic inflammation and increased oxidative stress

  11. Some cancers (endometrial, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder, and liver)

  12. Low quality of life

  13. Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders

  14. Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning

For children and teens, BMI is not a diagnostic tool. Instead it is used to screen for potential weight and health-related issues. This is because children and teens are constantly having changes in weight and height with age, as well as their relation to body fatness. It's important to know that BMI for children and teens can also be used to diagnose being underweight which can put one at risk for health issues.

Children's growth in the United States is measured by percentile. This table below shows the different BMI categories for children.

Weight Status Category Percentile Range

Underweight Less than the 5th percentile

Normal or Healthy Weight 5th percentile to less than the 85th percentile

Overweight 85th to less than the 95th percentile

Obese Equal to or greater than the 95th percentile

It's important to be aware of childhood obesity as it not only affects them now, but affects them later in life too. Below are the current health risks of now and later according to the CDC.

Health risks now

  1. High blood pressure

  2. High cholesterol

  3. Increased risk of impaired glucose tolerance (Diabetes)

  4. Breathing problems (sleep apnea, and asthma)

  5. Joint problems

  6. Fatty liver disease, gallstones, and heartburn

  7. Depression, behavioral problems, and issues in school.

  8. Low self-esteem and low self-reported quality of life.

  9. Impaired social, physical, and emotional functioning.

Health risks later

  1. Obese children are more likely to become obese adults.

  2. Obesity in adulthood is likely to be more severe, due to childhood obesity.

Check out the following links for additional information


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