Do you know your BMI?

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
August 14, 2008 3:30:33 PM PDT
Most people probably know how much they weigh, but do you know your BMI? It's a number being used increasingly by doctors and fitness experts. A recent medial report found that you can dramatically cut your risk of strokes by not smoking, exercising and maintaining a normal BMI. That's body mass index -- a simple calculation of whether the pounds on your body are muscle or fat.

Few people know their BMI.

It's an index of how weight compares to height, and you and your doctor can calculate it pretty simply. It's a screening number to identify weight problems in adults.

"Someone who is 150 pounds, but is also 6 feet 4, is different from someone 150 who is five feet tall," said Dr. Johnny Lee of the American Heart Association.

The difference is the shorter person has an abnormal BMI. That person is at higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

The normal BMI range is from 18.5 to 25. Overweight is 25 to 30. Obese is 30 and higher.

BMI isn't accurate for everyone. Highly trained athletes, for example, have a high BMI because of increased muscle size rather than increased body fat.

The BMI index correlates to amount of body fat very well, though women and the elderly tend to have more body fat than younger men at the same BMI. Other factors such as inches around the waist and high blood pressure also predict who will have heart attacks and strokes.

"We know that BMI is only one tool, so if we start off with that then we can begin the real primary prevention work," lee said.

That means getting someone into an exercise program, eating a healthier diet, and reducing cholesterol. All are designed to reduce abnormal weight and reduce heart disease risk. Teenage boys and girls have different BMI ranges.

For more on how to calculate your BMI, visit www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi

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