BMI (Body Mass Index)

How to Measure Obesity?

Your bathroom scale may give you a measure of your weight and help you follow changes in your weight, but it is not the best way to determine if you are overweight or obese, or at risk for developing obesity and its related health conditions. Other measurements can help you find out more about your body composition.


1. Body Mass Index (BMI):
BMI is a number based on both your height and weight. It can help you determine the degree to which you may be overweight and gives a reasonable assessment of total body fat for the general population.
Knowing your BMI is important for you and your family, because it correlates better with health conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes than does weight itself. BMI is not perfect. Some people, like athletes, may measure a high BMI but have more muscle than fat.


1.1 What does your BMI mean?
BMI "cutpoints" are numbers used to help you determine if you are at a healthy weight, overweight, obese or severely obese.



(class 1)
(class 2)
(class 3)
18.5 to 24.9
25 to 29.9
30 to 34.9
35 to 39.9
40 or more


1.2 Are Height / Weight Tables the same thing as BMI?
No. Height / Weight Tables were first developed by life insurance companies in 1908 to determine insurance rates based on how long people were expected to live. The tables are based on a non-representative sample of people, between the ages of 25 and 59, who purchased life insurance (excluding those with major diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes). Height / Weight Tables identify an ideal weight range for each height, and BMI uses cutpoints (listed above) for you to identify if you are at a healthy weight, overweight, obese or severely obesity, based on your height. Here are some other differences between BMI and Height / Weight Tables:

  • Unlike the tables, BMI corresponds generally to measurements of body fat.

  • Height / Weight Tables are not designed to predict disease risk, but BMI can. The higher the BMI, the higher your risk of developing certain diseases associated with obesity.

  • Medical researchers often use BMI, not Height / Weight Tables, when studying the effect of body weight on health.

  • There is one BMI chart used for adult men, women who are not pregnant and generally for all racial/ethnic groups. There are separate Height / Weight Tables for men and women.



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2. Waist Circumference
Apple-shaped? If you have never heard the term, it means carrying excess weight in the stomach region, also called abdominal fat. Waist circumference measurement is used to determine health risks related specifically to abdominal fat.


2.1 How to measure waist circumference?
Measure your waist size by wrapping a tape measure around the area above your hip bone and below your rib cage.


2.2 What does your waist measurement mean?
For Men: 40 inches or more
For Women: 35 inches or more

If your waist measurement is more than that listed above, and your BMI is between 25 and 34.9, you have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.


3. Combined Measurements
You can have a BMI that indicates you have a healthy weight, but still have a waist measurement above the healthy range.
Knowing both your BMI and Waist Circumference can give you better assessment of risk for developing obesity and its related health conditions.



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