How to Use Body Mass Index

by Jenifer Tull-Gauger

You’ve heard the news: Americans in general are getting fatter and even our kids have a growing epidemic of obesity, along with its health complications.  Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and has been for quite some time.  According to University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina, severe obesity leads to many chronic conditions that, taken together, make up the second leading cause of death in our country. These conditions include:

-High blood pressure

-Congestive heart failure

-Shortness of breath

-Heart disease

-Stress incontinence



-Sleep apnea



-Blood clots

On the other hand, maintaining a healthy weight helps prevent those conditions.  It also increases the health and usability of your knees and back and in the long run increasing your healthy, active life span!

In order to make progress it helps to see where you are now.  I recommend starting with a benchmark of your current Body Mass Index (BMI.)  This is an approximate calculation of your body fat.  If high it indicates many health risks.  There are many ways to find your BMI.  Some easy online calculators are: (my favorite—compares to your peers),, and  BMI Tables can be found in fitness and nutrition books too.  I have used a math formula to literally calculate mine the old fashioned way.

When you know your BMI you can decide where to go from there.  If it is not in a healthy range, figure out some health goals and what steps you can start taking each day to aim for them.

Overweight now but wanting to be lighter?  How long did it take to put on that extra weight?  It will probably take about that long to get back down to your preferred poundage.  Be patient and persevere.  “Even modest reductions in weight—5 percent to 10 percent—have been shown to reduce the risk of many illnesses.” (Source: The Okinawa Diet Plan.)

Once you have your BMI, write it down, along with your current weight.  Then start implementing your plan for better health, today!  The small steps we take every day add up to make a big difference in the long run.

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