What BMI really says (and doesn’t say) about your health

To a lot of women, BMI is like a pancreas: You know you have one but aren’t quite sure what it does or why you need it. I get a lot of confusion from patients over this measurement, which is intended to estimate how much body fat you have by comparing your height and weight.

Maybe you’ve looked up your own BMI and found that you’re in the “overweight” or even “obese” range, even though you feel pretty good about your weight. BMI can fall short for women who work out a lot; it’s actually less than ideal in general because it’s a very old system measuring modern bodies, which have greater bone density than those the scale was originally figured for.

Health and Fitness Specialist Adrienne D’Angelo and I agree that this BMI business is on its way out and that there’s a better way to find out how fit you are. I’ll let her tell it.

“BMI is such an old-school way of telling what your health risks are,” Adrienne said. “It’s terrible when a teenager, who’s healthy and fit and plays sports, finds out that BMI says she’s obese when in reality she has higher muscle mass. I’m hoping the medical community reevaluates BMI or throws it out the window.

“A better way to find out what shape you’re in and what your health risks are is to use a hip-waist ratio. This is a comparison of your hip measurement to your waist measurement. Basically, if your waist is bigger than your hips, you’re at greater risk for issues like heart disease and diabetes, and you tend to have a harder time controlling your weight.

“If someone comes in to see me with a BMI that says she’s obese, but she has a waist that’s smaller than her hips, I’m not going to put too much stock in that BMI measurement.

“You actually can exercise and eat better and change your hip and waist measurements but not change your BMI. Maybe before you were flubbery and couldn’t button your pants. When you’re eating more fruits and vegetables, the fat melts away, your muscles get a little bit leaner, and then you can close your shirts and pants.”

Julie here again. Please remember that BMI doesn’t tell the whole story. Make sure you get a waist-hip ratio along with it. Even your waist measurement tells a lot about your health. For women, a waist above 31.5 inches indicates you might need to make some changes to your diet and exercise, and one above 34.6 inches shows that you are at a much greater risk for health issues like

•    Cardiovascular disease
•    Gall bladder disease
•    High blood pressure
•    Diabetes
•    Osteoarthritis
•    Colon, breast, and other cancers

Any time your pants get hard to button, it’s time to think about better food and exercise choices. We can help you with that. In the meantime, get (or stay) active, and stay away from saturated fats. If others in your family have a potbelly, do what you can to keep from developing one yourself. It makes a big difference in your health.

Call 317-338-4-HER or use this form to schedule a free waist-hip ratio consultation.

Click here to receive a FREE Weight Loss Kit.

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