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How To Use The Body Mass Index (BMI)

Last updated April 29, 2016

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

BruceBlaus

The Body Mass Index, commonly referred to as the BMI, is a number devised from a person’s weight and height. It has been used as a dependable indicator of body fatness in most individuals.


The Body Mass Index, commonly referred to as the BMI, is a number devised from a person’s weight and height. It has been used as a dependable indicator of body fatness in most individuals. It is both a simplistic and inexpensive method used to screen for weight classes that show potential health risks.

The body mass index is calculated by dividing the individual’s weight (in kilograms) by the square of their height (expressed in meters). The formula can also be used with pounds or inches, by first dividing the weight of the individual by the square of their height. This value is then subsequently multiplied by 703, which is the conversion factor.

The calculations should be completed the same way for both adults and children. In terms of interpreting the results, adults over 20 years of age should use standard weight status categories that are the same for all ages and both sexes. Children and teens less than 20 years of age use weight status categories that are both sex and age specific.

In order to gain a better understanding of BMI values, users can view a table to determine the status of their weight. A healthy BMI for adults would be between 18.5 and 24.9. Underweight is considered under a value of 18.5 and overweight is considered between 25.0 and 29.9. A value of 30.0 and above indicates obesity.

Allowing individuals to monitor body fatness composition has allowed for awareness and self-treatment if the results are not optimal. This system can create a newfound awareness for physical health.

Consider using a BMI calculator as a quick tool to assess your current health status. Although using this index may seem to be an insignificant step in your health regimen, this monitoring process has the potential to have a large influence in the prevention of future health concerns.

References:

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm (accessed on 04/02/2016)

http://www.calculator.net/bmi-calculator.html (accessed on 04/02/2016)

http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/how-can-i-work-out-my-bmi.aspx?CategoryID=51 (accessed on 04/02/2016)

About BMI for Adults [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [updated 2014 Jul 11; cited 2014 Jan 25]. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/index.html

Assessing Your Weight and Health [Internet]. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [cited 2015 Jan 25]. Available from: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/risk.htm#limitations

Dietz, W. H., & Bellizzi, M. C. (1999). Introduction: the use of body mass index to assess obesity in children. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 70(1), 123s-125s.

Gallagher, D., Visser, M., Sepulveda, D., Pierson, R. N., Harris, T., & Heymsfield, S. B. (1996). How useful is body mass index for comparison of body fatness across age, sex, and ethnic groups?. American journal of epidemiology, 143(3), 228-239.

Cole, T. J., Flegal, K. M., Nicholls, D., & Jackson, A. A. (2007). Body mass index cut offs to define thinness in children and adolescents: international survey. Bmj, 335(7612), 194.

Romero-Corral, A., Somers, V. K., Sierra-Johnson, J., Thomas, R. J., Collazo-Clavell, M. L., Korinek, J., ... & Lopez-Jimenez, F. (2008). Accuracy of body mass index in diagnosing obesity in the adult general population. International journal of obesity, 32(6), 959-966.

Guo, S. S., & Chumlea, W. C. (1999). Tracking of body mass index in children in relation to overweight in adulthood. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 70(1), 145s-148s.

Flegal, K. M., Shepherd, J. A., Looker, A. C., Graubard, B. I., Borrud, L. G., Ogden, C. L., ... & Schenker, N. (2009). Comparisons of percentage body fat, body mass index, waist circumference, and waist-stature ratio in adults. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 89(2), 500-508.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: April 29, 2016
Last updated: April 29, 2016