Tag Archives: body mass index

Healthy Weight Ranges

In the past it was pretty easy to find tables of recommended healthy body weights.  Not so much anymore.  Most of the experts want you calculate your body mass index, recommending the healthy BMI range as 18.5 to 24.9.  I just spent an hour putting together a healthy weight range based on BMIs.  Since I have many readers outside the U.S., I use both U.S. customary and metric numbers.

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company last published its ideal weight and height table in 1983.  The US Department of Agriculture abondoned its 1995 healthy weight table by the turn of the century recommending BMI calculation instead.  Of note is that the upper end of its weight ranges was a BMI of 25; the lower ends were all BMIs of 19. 

Body Mass Index (BMI) is your weight in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared (kg/m2).  A pound equals 2.2 kilograms. A pound equals about 454 grams (453.6 to be exact). An inch equals 2.54 centimeters.  There are 100 centimeters in one meter. Thus, a 5-foot, 4-inch woman (1.63 meters) weighing 200 pounds (91 kilograms) has a BMI of 34.2.  Perhaps you’re starting to understand why this weight standard isn’t too popular yet.

 To learn your own BMI but skip the math, use an online calculator.

 To see if your BMI is in the healthy range of 18.5 to 24.9, find your height in the table below, then look to the healhy weight ranges to the right.  Measure your height without shoes and weight without clothes.

Table of Healthy Weight Ranges Based On Body Mass Index: 18.5 to 24.9

       Height               Weight in lb        Weight in kg

5’0” or 152 cm             95 – 128             43.0 – 58.0

5’1” or 155 cm             98 – 132             44.4 – 59.8

5’2” or 157 cm           101 – 137            45.8 – 62.1

5’3” or 160 cm           105 – 141             47.6 – 63.9

5’4” or 163 cm           108 – 146             48.9 – 66.2

5’5” or 165 mc           111 – 150             50.3 – 68.0

5’6” or 168 cm           115 – 155             52.0 – 70.3

5’7” or 170 cm           118 – 160             53.5 – 72.5

5’8” or 173 cm           122 – 164             55.3 – 74.3

5’9” or 175 cm           125 – 169             51.7 – 76.6

5’10” or 178 cm         129 – 174             58.5 – 78.9

5’11” or 180 cm         133 – 179             60.3 – 81.8

6’0”  or 183 cm          137 – 184             62.1 – 83.4

6’1” or 185 cm           140 – 189              63.5 – 85.7

6’2” or 188 cm           144 – 195             65.3 – 88.4

6’3” or 191 cm           148 – 200             67.1 – 90.7

6’4” or 193 cm           152 – 205             68.9 – 92.9

BMIs between 25 and 29.9 designate “overweight” and accurately describe about 35 percent of the United States population.

A BMI of 30 or higher defines “obesity” and indicates high risk for poor health. About 30 percent of us are obese. At a BMI of 35 and above, incidence of death and disease increases sharply.

The BMI concept is helpful to researchers and obesity clinicians, but the number doesn’t mean much yet to the average person on the street and to many physicians. It should be used more widely. (I know, I know: it’s not perfect.  Do you have a better, cheap, widely applicable alternative?)  Know your BMI. If it’s under 25, any excess fat you carry is unlikely to affect your health and longevity; your efforts to lose weight would be purely cosmetic.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Adverse Health Effects of Obesity

"I'm not fat, I'm chubby"

"I'm not fat, I'm chubby"

As a physician, I see many illnesses and conditions that are caused or aggravated by overweight and obesity.  Both terms refer to excess body fat; obesity is a greater degree of fat.

Body mass index (BMI) is used to define overweight and obesity.  Your BMI is your weight in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared.  A BMI between 18.5 and 25 is considered healthy.  BMIs between 25 and 30 are overweight.  Here’s an online BMI calculator.  For example, a 5-foot, 4-inch person enters obesity territory – BMI over 30 – when weight reaches 174 pounds (79 kilograms).  A 5-foot, 10-incher is obese starting at 208 pounds (94.5 kilograms).

People trying to lose excess fat typically have days when willpower, discipline, and commitment waver.  On those days, it can help to remember why they started this adventure in the first place.  The reasons for many involve improved health and longevity.  Even if you have just 20 pounds of excess fat to lose, it will often take twenty weeks.  Your weight-loss goal is one to one-and-a-half pounds a week. 

This race is won not by the swift, but by the slow and steady.

Here’s a laundry list of obesity-related conditions to remind you why you want to avoid obesity:

  • Premature death.  It starts at BMI of 30, with a major increase in premature death at BMI over 40.  The U.S. has 200,000 yearly deaths directly attributable to obesity.
  • Arthritis, especially of the knees.
  • Type 2 diabetes melllitus.  Eight-five percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight.
  • Increased cardiovascular disease risk, especially with an apple-shaped fat distribution as compared to pear-shaped.  Cardiovascular disease includes heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes, and peripheral arterial disease (poor circulation).
  • Obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Gallstones are three or four times more common in the obese.
  • High blood pressure.  At least one third of cases are caused by excess body fat.  Every 20 pounds of excess fat raises blood pressure 2-3 points (mmHg).
  • Tendency to higher total and LDL cholesterol, higher triglycerides, while lowering HDL cholesterol.  These lipid changes are associated with hardening of the arteries – atherosclerosis – which can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral arterial disease.
  • Increased cancers.  Prostate and colorectal in men.  Endometrial, gallbladder, cervix, ovary, and breast in women.  Kidney and esophageal adenocarcinoma in both sexes.  Excess fat contributes to 14-20% of all cancer-related deaths in the U.S.  Over 550,000 people die from cancer in the U.S. yearly.  Twenty percent of us will die from cancer.
  • Strokes.
  • Low back pain.
  • Gout.
  • Varicose veins.
  • Hemorrhoids.
  • Blood clots in legs and lungs.
  • Surgery complications: poor wound healing, blood clots, wound infection, breathing problems.
  • Pregnancy complications: toxemia, high blood pressure, diabetes, prolonged labor, greater need for C-section.
  • Fat build-up in liver.
  • Asthma.
  • Low sperm counts.
  • Decreased fertility.
  • Delayed or missed diagnosis due to difficult physical examination or weight exceeding the limit of diagnostic equipment.

I hope you find this information motivational rather than depressing.  For those already obese, weight loss can significantly improve, alleviate, or prevent these conditions.  Many obesity-related medical conditions and metabolic abnormalities are improved with loss of just five or 10% of total body weight.  For instance, a 240 pound man with mild diabetes and high blood pressure may be able to reduce or avoid drug therapy by losing just 12 to 24 pounds.  He’s still obese, but healthier.

Steve Parker, M.D. 

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Filed under Overweight and Obesity