Now you need to calculate your body mass index. There are hundreds of BMI calculators on the Internet, but here is a useful chart to help you put the number in context.
Using the BMI Chart
This BMI chart is designed so you can use units of measure with which you are most familiar – whether pounds, feet, and inches, or kilograms and centimeters. It is always best to have an accurate indication of your weight and height before finding your BMI. Following are illustrations of how to use the chart.
Example 1: Consider someone who weighs 200 pounds and is 5 feet, 8 inches tall. On the BMI chart, the pounds (lbs) are in a vertical column on the left, just to the right of the stones column.
Horizontally, along the top of the chart, are the feet and inches. So, in this example, one would find 200 lbs almost halfway down along the vertical column on the left entitled lbs, and would find 5 feet, 8 inches (5’ 8”) along the horizontal line across the top of the chart. Follow along both lines to identify the point in the body of the BMI chart at which the two intersect. In this case, that point indicates a BMI of 30.5, which falls within Obese Class I or Category 1 Obesity.
Example 2: Consider someone who weighs 90.9 kilograms and is 57.5 centimeters in height. On the BMI chart, the kilograms (kg) are in the vertical column to the far right of the chart, and the centimeters (cm) are along a horizontal line at the bottom of the chart. Finding 90.5 kg along the right side of the chart, and 57.5 cm along the bottom, and following along both lines will bring you to the point in the body of the BMI chart where they intersect at a BMI reading of 36.7, which falls within Obese Class II or Category 2 Obesity.
Write down your BMI measurement and the date on which you calculated it. (Note that if you’re of South Asian, Japanese, or Chinese descent, the BMI categories will have to be adjusted downward because of the generally smaller frame size of these populations.)
BMI ______________________DATE ____________________
Now let’s look at what this number means regarding your risk of common lifestyle diseases.
Suppose your BMI falls in the healthy category or even a few numbers into the overweight category. If you have no other risk factors, I wouldn’t be very concerned and would usually say, “See you next year.” If your BMI is 28 or higher, you most likely have a lifestyle health risk.
Small Improvements Go a Long Way
Even if it takes you a long while to get out of the obesity category, just dropping 5% to 10% of your overall weight by increasing your metabolism will significantly improve your risk profile and will make you feel better, too.
Waist Circumference and Disease Risk
Like most simple scales, BMI isn’t perfect. Critics say it doesn’t adequately account for people who are very muscular. It isn’t foolproof. The best predictor of disease risk is BMI combined with waist circumference.
It turns out that your belly is a reflection of what’s going on inside your abdomen. Research shows that fat cells around internal organs, also known as visceral fat, seem to disrupt the normal hormonal balance in the body and are also associated with a higher risk of many diseases.
Tape Measures Are Not Just for Tailors
BMI isn’t the only predictor of risk. With a BMI between 25 and 34.9, your risk becomes even more serious if you carry a lot of your weight around your waist. Within the BMI range of 25 and 34.9, there is a strong correlation between waist circumference and type 2 diabetes, coronary vascular disease, and high blood pressure.
The waist circumference danger zones presented above reflect guidelines provided by North American experts. These numbers are higher than those in guidelines published by European groups.
Likewise, guidelines for people of South Asian, Chinese, and Japanese descent are lower. It’s important to use the waist circumference guideline for your ethnicity, keeping in mind that guidelines change as our knowledge of disease risk continues to improve.
Understanding Your Cholesterol Numbers
It’s widely known that it is generally best to have high HDL (good cholesterol) and low LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides. Your physician can tell you what your ideal numbers should be, a determination made based on your ten-year cardiovascular risk score. Just remember that high LDL cholesterol is a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke. These diseases also increase your risk of dementia.
Cholesterol numbers have a way of creeping up with increasing weight. It is important to be proactive and deal with cholesterol before you have a problem. I’ve always believed that it’s far easier to prevent a problem than to correct one.
Record your most recent checkup results here:
LDL (bad cholesterol) _____________________________
HDL (good cholesterol) ____________________________
BLOOD PRESSURE _______________/_______________
FASTING BLOOD SUGAR _________________________
What’s Your Risk? You Can’t Change Your Family
What are your BMI, waist circumference, cholesterol numbers, blood sugars, and blood pressure telling you about your future health risk? Whatever your numbers reveal, your risk may be higher if you have a parent or sibling with a history of any of the following conditions: heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Fortunately, genes don’t necessarily determine your fate – your own health choices can help shape your future.
Chances are you have picked up this book because you want to lose weight, improve your health, and feel great. However, you may not have realized your risk profile for major life-changing diseases until now.
If you’re concerned about your risk profile, the good news is:
- Even a moderate amount of physical activity and cardio exercise can improve your HDL (good) cholesterol, which will decrease your risk of heart disease
- The Health First program is a simple, never-go-hungry diet that can reduce your BMI and waist circumference, which together will reduce your risk of getting today’s lifestyle diseases
The baseline data you just recorded are not just for future reference. They should also serve to inspire you to action. The firmer your commitment to the Health First program, the better your chances of living a healthier and longer life.
Some Statistical Truths
- 27% of Americans over sixty-five have diabetes (American Diabetes Association)
- 25% of Canadians have diabetes or pre-diabetes (Canadian Diabetes Association)
- 53% of those in the obesity category have an increased chance of thyroid cancer
- 40% of endometrial and esophageal cancers are attributed to obesity
Patient Story: Feeling Fabulous
Charles, a fifty-four-year-old, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. His fasting blood sugar was 7.8 (140.4 American units). His weight was 215 pounds (97.7kg). His BMI was 33 (class I obesity category), and his waist circumference was 42.5 inches (108cm).
We discussed options for treatment of his type 2 diabetes, and he decided to attempt a lifestyle program instead of starting on medication.
Charles totally embraced the Health First program and lost 38 pounds (17kg) at a rate of about 2 pounds (1kg) per week. This was in 2006. He power walks for thirty minutes at least four times a week. At the time of writing, his weight is still off, his blood sugar is always in the target range, and he has no complications from his diabetes.