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The Women's Health Institute at Phoenix Family Medical Clinic
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Why is BMI important?

BMI or Body Mass Index is an estimate of the amount of body fat you have. It is good measure to understand your overall fitness level and how prone you are to chronic diseases in the future. BMI is calculated by squaring your height and putting it in ratio with your weight. Taller people usually have a higher BMI as they contain more tissue in their bodies than shorter people.

How accurate is BMI?

While BMI gives you a rough idea of your body fat content, it shouldn’t be the last word on the subject. It doesn’t take into account differences in body type. Muscle and bone are denser than fat, so it is always possible for an athlete or a bodybuilder to have a high BMI despite having low body fat. However, for regular people like you and I, BMI is a pretty good judge of how much fat you have in your body.

What BMI says about your health.

Anybody who is at a healthy weight will have a BMI between 18.9 and 24.9. A BMI that falls below 18.5 is considered underweight. If your BMI exceeds 25, you are categorized as overweight. A BMI score over 30 classifies you as obese.

If your BMI is in the lower ranges, you might be malnourished. Either your body is not absorbing nutrients well, or you are not consuming enough calories to sustain your activity levels. On the other hand, if your BMI is in the higher range, you may be at risk of heart diseases, certain cancers, and diabetes. A doctor usually refers a person with a high BMI to a licensed dietitian who works to get the patient's weight down to an appropriate level and lower his/her health risks.

Flaws in BMI

Women tend to have a higher BMI than men. A woman with a healthy BMI could still have a high body fat percentage. BMI calculation also fails when muscle mass is considered. Muscle weighs more than fat. So if you lift weights and have toned muscles, your BMI will be high despite not having high-fat content. Genetic factors aren't taken into account either. A thin body may not always be a healthy body.


Sure, BMI is a time-tested, effective way to tell if you need to cut down on your calories or take them a notch higher in your diet. However, other methods of calculating body fat like waist circumference can help measure body fat better in adults. Calculating BMI is quite simple, and this makes it one of the more popular methods of gauging how healthy you are. Regularly calculating your BMI gives you a good idea of what your weight should be like and how you should work to achieve that weight. Want to know if you should take that second helping of lasagna? Maybe, calculate your BMI before.