Body Mass Index: Why this number is more important than the numbers on the scale

You think you’re healthy. You eat right, exercise regularly and you look pretty good in a pair of jeans. You still may be overweight and at risk for a number of diseases. Why? Just because the scale says one thing, your BMI could be saying another. BMI stands for Body Mass Index. Basically, it means how much total fat your body stores.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute offers visitors a BMI calculator. Simply plug in your height and weight and your BMI will appear. Next to the calculator is a chart where you can determine whether you are normal weight, overweight or obese.

You may surprise yourself with the results. According to the chart, a five foot five inch woman who weighs 150 pounds is considered overweight, and at a higher risk for:

  • high blood pressure
  • high blood cholesterol
  • type 2 diabetes
  • stroke
  • certain cancers

Even a ten percent weight loss will lower your risk. And if you want to know your risk for heart disease, measure the circumference of your waist along with your BMI. According to a study by the American Journal of Cardiology, as BMI and waist circumference increase, so does:

  • insulin resistance
  • number of triglycerides(type of fat in the blood stream)
  • glucose concentration in the blood,

leading to a greater risk of heart disease. If this information doesn’t have you scrambling to the gym, or taking a second look at those chips you’re about to much on, maybe the following statement will. Just two or three pounds could mean the difference between a BMI that is considered normal, and one that is considered over weight.

Just tipping the scale one way or the other isn’t the only indicator of whether your weight is healthy. By knowing your BMI, you can determine what numbers on the scale can not…Your body fat. Weight from muscle is ok. Weight from fat is not.

How do you reduce your body fat? Besides the obvious, eat less and exercise more, read food labels. Choose foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. The Food and Drug Administration now requires food manufacturers to list trans fats on labels.

It’s not enough just to count calories. Now we have to read labels and charts too? Yes, if you want to fit intothat new pair of jeans and stay out of the cardiologist’s office.

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