Calculating Your BMI and What It Means

  • woman-standing-on-weight-scale
    Is Your Weight Healthy?
    Do you know if you"re overweight, obese, or at a healthy weight? Calculate your body mass index (BMI) to find out. BMI is a measure of weight relative to height, and it tells you where you fall on the scale from too thin to too big.

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    High BMI Ups Disease Risk
    BMI is a reliable measure of total body fat. High body fat ups your risk for diseases and even death. People with high BMIs are more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke, even if they don"t have any other risk factors for these problems. The higher your BMI, the greater your chance for having type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or other weight-related problems.

  • step-on-the-scale
    Step on the Scale
    To calculate your BMI, you"ll need to know your correct height and weight. To find your correct weight, place a scale on a flat, hard surface--not the carpet. Don"t wear shoes or heavy clothing.

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    Straighten Up!
    To find your true height, stand very straight with your butt, shoulders, and the back of your head touching a wall. Mark your height at the highest point of your head to the nearest 1/4-inch.

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    Make Your Calculation
    Plug your height and weight into this online BMI calculator. Or you can calculate it yourself. Multiply your weight (in pounds) by 703. Divide that number by your height (in inches), then divide the result by your height (in inches) again.

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    Check Your Score
    Have your number? Here"s the moment of truth.

    • BMI below 18.5: Underweight

    • BMI from 18.5 to 24.9: Normal weight

    • BMI from 25.0 to 29.9: Overweight

    • BMI more than 30: Obese

  • man-picking-up-free-weight
    Allow for Muscle
    Not so fast, athletes. According to the BMI scale, Vin Diesel-lookalikes are overweight. Athletes who have a lot of muscle can have high BMIs even if they are healthy and have a low risk for diseases. If you"re muscular, talk with your doctor about skinfold measurements, waist circumference, and other measures of body fat.

  • older-woman-on-couch
    More to the Story
    OK, a few more cautions here. If you"re in the following groups, BMI may not be a good measure of body fat or weight-related problems, so talk with your doctor:

    • Older adults

    • Adults less than 5 feet tall

    • African-American and Hispanic-American women
  • lazy-man-on-couch
    Gauging Risk Factors
    If you"re in the obese category, you need to lose weight. If you"re overweight, it depends. Do you have two or more of these risk factors? If so, it"s important for you to lose weight, too.

    • Smoking cigarettes

    • High blood pressure

    • High LDL, or "bad," cholesterol

    • Low HDL, or "good," cholesterol

    • High triglycerides

    • Family history of early heart disease

    • Lack of physical activity

    If you"re overweight but don"t have any of these risk factors, just make sure you don"t gain any more pounds.

  • woman-taking-insulin-before-meal
    Why Weight Matters
    Overweight and obese adults are especially at risk for some serious health conditions:

    • Cardiovascular disease

    • High blood pressure

    • Osteoarthritis

    • Some cancers

    • Type 2 diabetes


  • group of women lifting small weights
    Small Steps, Big Savings
    Losing just 5 to 10 percent of your weight--7 to 15 pounds for a 150-pound person--can improve your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. Losing 10 percent of your weight also can help lower your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and some cancers.

  • senior-man-lifting-weights
    Long-Term Results
    Slow and steady wins the weight loss race. Aim to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week and you"ll be more likely to keep the weight off for good.

  • woman-on-couch-on-laptop
    Track Your Progress
    To track your BMI regularly, download a BMI calculator to your computer or tablet. Various apps and wearable fitness devices are also available to track your BMI on your smartphone or tablet.

Calculating Your BMI and What It Means

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