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Is Your BMI Really That Important?
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Andie_WebMD_Staff posted:
We've all heard the talk about Body Mass Index tables and how they can tell us if we are overweight - or even worse - obese. But, is your BMI really that important to your overall health?

Our Food & Cooking expert, Ellen Magee , thinks the tables are NOT a good indicator for overall fitness health. In her article, Finally! Research That Blasts BMI , she points out these two findings from a related study:

  • Patients with the lowest BMIs had the highest rates of death from heart disease and all other causes.
  • Patients considered to be overweight but not obese, (I AM A MEMBER OF THIS DISTINGUISHED GROUP), had lower risk for death from any cause than patients whose BMIs fell in the normal range.
According to BMI charts, a person with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered to be at a healthy weight. A person with a BMI of 25-29.9 is considered to be overweight. A BMI over 30 is considered obese. A BMI of 40 or above indicates that a person is morbidly obese.

Find your BMI using one of these tools:


Did your BMI fall where you thought it would? How do you feel about these charts and the findings from related studies? Share your thoughts about Body Mass Index below.
Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours. - Irish Proverb
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Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP responded:
Hi there Andie. The latest research shows that it's not BMI that is the best way to predict your health and wellbeing as it relates to weight. It's what I have been saying all along--- BODY COMPOSITION. I'd rather we spend all of our time tracking body fat and muscle mass. BMI says nothing about how much fat or muscle you're carrying (you could have a normal BMI and high body fat), nor does it tell you anything about where the body fat is distributed--- belly, buttocks etc. A simple tape measure does the trick. A waist to hip ratio tells you more than BMI.

Therefore, I recommend everyone out there arm themselves with a tape measure for measuring your girth (wrap around your belly button and women are striving for <35" and men <40"). Higher numbers are related to higher risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Then, hop on a body comp scale and monitor your body fat %. WebMD has great resources for interpreting body fat. If you look in Body for Life for Women or Fit to Live, I rant and rave about body fat % and it's importance in determining health and wellness.

BMI is one number in a long equation of effective qualifiers for weight management. It's not the most important by any means.

Dr Peeke
 
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terizito responded:
I am apalled that my medical plan at work is requiring that BMI be used as a measure of a healthy weight! I am an avid daily exerciser and 95% healthy eater and my blood work shows consistent healthy numbers but my weight is indicating that I am overweight at best and obese at worst.
I use online tools to measure my caloric intake and my caloric burn daily and I'm always within or below my target daily goal (lose 2lbs/week) but I'm not losing weight. I'm content to stay this course however, because I know I'm healthy. My thyroid tests are all coming back within healthy ranges even though my mother has hypothyroidism but I'm 52 and going through menopause so I'm attributing my struggle to that. None of these factors are even considered when using BMI and I fear I may be denied coverage if I'm considered overweight or obese.
 
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brunosbud replied to terizito's response:
Nobody is demanding you comply, ie. you won't lose your job if you fail to comply. You just won't be able to save as much as others who wish to participate or work towards complying within preset limits, is all. What's wrong with that?


Starting this coming year (and onwards), employers may offer incentives for employees who wish to save money on health insurance...If you make the choice to not smoke, if you are not obese, if you blood pressure and cholesterol fall within normal limits you may be eligible to pay lower premiums &/or deductibles, etc...

[blockquote>The general rule: Federal law generally prohibits plans from charging different premiums to different employees based on a health factor. However, there is an exception for "bona fide wellness" programs. These programs allow an employer to vary premiums up to 20% based on a health factor (such as cholesterol, weight, smoking) but only if the employer offers a reasonable alternative to those for whom it is unreasonably difficult to meet the standard.
For example, let's say the standard is a cholesterol count of 200. If an employee is below 200, he/she gets the better premium. This is okay so long as the employer offers an alternative standard to employees who are above 200. For example, take a cholesterol drug or attend nutrition classes.
Voluntary programs available to all outside of the medical plan are generally okay — for example, a gym discount, or a reward for attending a health fair.
Health Risk Assessments [like measurement of blood pressure and waist circumference> are sort of a legal land mine under the Americans with Disability Act and GINA [which protects genetic privacy>, but it depends on what is asked and what it is used for.
[/blockquote>


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