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Understanding BMI (Body Mass Index)

Body Mass Index

BMI InfographicBody Mass Index or BMI is your weight in kilograms, divided by the square of your height in meters. When your BMI is, high, it could be indicating that your body fat is high. This measure of body fat is used in various weight categories to help diagnose health problems linked to body fatness or overall health of a person.

BMI applies to adult women and men who are 20 years or older. Children who are two years and older are best assessed through BMI percentile.

BMI is not a direct measure of body fat. Research, however, shows that it correlates to direct measure of one’s body fat.

Body Mass Index


BMI Formula In-Lbs

Ideally, BMI is calculated using kilograms and centimeters, but you can also calculate using pounds and inches, by using the following simple steps.

Suppose an individual is 5 ft 3 inches tall and weighs 125 pounds, you can calculate their BMI as follows.

  1. Using the metric conversion factor, multiply their weight in pounds, i.e., 125 X0.45= 56.25kg.
  2. Using the metric conversion factor, multiply height in inches i.e. 63 X 0.025= 1.575m
  3. Next, you square the height. 1.575 X 1.575=2.480625
  4. Divide the weight in kilograms by the square of your height. 56.25/2.480625=22.7

The answer: for individual who is 5ft 3 inches and weighing 125lbs, their BMI is 22.7, rounded off to 23.
BMI Categories & What They Mean

Standard BMI categories for adults are as follows:

  1. BMI below 18.5 means that the individual is underweight
  2. BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 means the individual has healthy or normal weight.
  3. BMI of between 25 and 29.9 means that the person is overweight.
  4. BMI of 30 and above signifies the individual is obese.

In children and teenagers, the BMI is dependent on sex and age.

Health Consequences Of High BMI

BMI is essential in determining obesity and overweight. It is calculated using one’s weight and height. It is an estimate of the body fat one has and a good indication of their risk for particular diseases that are impacted by body fat. The higher one’s BMI is, the higher the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, particular cancers, gallstones and breathing problems.

Although BMI is a good indicator of body fat and overall health, it has some limitations. First, it overestimates body fat in people with a high muscular build such as athletes. Secondly, it easily underestimates body fat in individuals who have lost muscle such as the elderly. BMI should therefore not be taken at face value. A lot of other elements must be considered before one is seen as overweight, underweight or even obese.

Some of the key health issues associated with a high BMI include:

  • High blood pressure hypertension
  • High LDL, Dyslipidemia, or low HDL cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Breathing problems
  • Sleep apnea
  • Anxiety, clinical depression, and other mental disorders
  • Difficulty with physical functioning and body pain

Do I Qualify For Bariatric Surgery

BMI is one of the key determinants when it comes to bariatric surgery. People who are overweight or moderately obese do not qualify for this type of surgery. Because of its intensity, it is reserved for individuals who are morbidly obese. There are less invasive medical procedures that can be used for people who are overweight but wish to lose some weight without becoming too small or unhealthy.

To qualify for bariatric surgery:

  1. You must have a BMI of 40 or greater and be over 100 pounds overweight.
  2. If you have a BMI of 35 or higher and have one or more obese related illnesses, you qualify for the procedure.
  3. If you have been unable to achieve and maintain healthy weight loss for a long time, you could be considered for the surgery.

There are other rules regarding bariatric surgery that determine if one can have it or not and these change from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In the United States, for Instance, it is recommended that board-certified surgeons who have received specialized training and experience to be the only ones carrying out the surgeries as well as offering post-op care.

Patients who meet the criteria but have pre-existing conditions related or not related to the obesity can also be disqualified for the procedure. This is because the pre-existing illnesses could increase the risk of surgery for them. For instance, this operation cannot be conducted on a cancer patient.

Patients who have undergone other weight loss procedures might also be disqualified from bariatric surgery depending on the type and nature of the previous weight loss process.


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This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our editorial team strives to present both sides of the argument with in-depth analysis and links to resources.

This article contains scientific and health-related references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.