Understanding BMI

Apr 01, 2023
Understanding BMI
Body mass index (BMI) is a screening tool that estimates body fatness to assess disease risk. Find out what your BMI says about your health; it might surprise you.

Weight and health go hand-in-hand. Health care providers worldwide use body mass index (BMI) to quickly evaluate weight and body fatness and how it might increase the risk of developing a weight-related chronic disease. Though a valuable tool, BMI doesn’t directly measure your body fat or determine your overall health.

At Transform Bariatrics in Greenbelt, Rockville, and Silver Spring, Maryland, we specialize in weight loss, offering medical and surgical options to help our patients reach their goal weight. While we use BMI to guide our decision-making process, it’s not the only measure our bariatric surgeon, Dr. Hitesh P. Amin, uses to determine who qualifies for weight loss surgery

Because there are so many misconceptions about BMI, we want to explain the measurement and how we use it to assess health and make decisions.

About BMI

The BMI is a mathematical equation that compares weight to height to determine your weight status category and disease risk. 

The following is the BMI measurement and weight status table:

  • BMI less than 18.5 — Underweight
  • BMI 18.5-24.9 — Healthy weight
  • BMI 25-29.9 — Overweight
  • BMI 30 and higher — Obesity

BMI is a screening tool. Like any other health screening, it looks for potential health issues before you have symptoms. Your BMI doesn’t diagnose any disease or health problem but may indicate potential risk.

BMI and health

The higher the BMI, the more body fat a person has. Excess body fat is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Additionally, suppose you have a higher BMI and chronic disease. In that case, your weight may make managing the illness harder, putting you at risk of developing other health complications.

Limitations of BMI

Your BMI doesn’t measure your body composition or how much of your weight comes from fat, muscle, and bone. You can have the same BMI as someone else and not have the same body fat because BMI doesn’t differentiate between your overall weight and body fat. 

Bodybuilders, for example, may have a high BMI that places them in the overweight category but have very little body fat. Additionally, older adults may have a BMI that puts them in the healthy weight category but have more body fat than younger adults with the same BMI.

Remember, body fat puts you at risk of developing health problems.

Beyond BMI

BMI is useful when monitoring weight changes over time. However, it doesn’t tell your entire health story. When evaluating your overall health and risk of disease, we:

  • Ask about your lifestyle (eating, exercise, stress)
  • Review your personal and family health history
  • Obtain objective data (blood pressure, bloodwork)
  • Measure your waist circumference

We use BMI as a screening tool for weight-loss procedures, but it’s only one factor we consider when deciding how best to help our patients reach their weight and health goals. 

If you have difficulty reaching a healthy weight, we can help. Call or request an appointment online today at the office nearest you.