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Assessing Your Risk
Interpretation of Your BMI [5]
Waist Circumference
Other Risk Factors
Losing Weight Safely



The BMI, Body Mass Index, is a measure of your weight relative to your height and waist circumference. Combining your scores on this index with information about other health behaviors and family history, yields important information about your risk for developing obesity-associated diseases.[1] BMI is the measurement of choice for many physicians and researchers to determine whether a person is overweight.[2]

The general equation for calculation of BMI is as follows.[3] See the next section for BMI calculators that will perform this equation for you.

BMI = [Weight in pounds ? Height in inches ? Height in inches] x 703


BMI = Weight in kilograms ? [Height in meters]2
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Assessing Your Risk

According to the new NHLBI (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) guidelines, assessment of your risk for OBESITY involves three key measures: body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and risk factors for diseases and conditions associated with obesity.

You can use one or more of the following links to estimate your total body fat:

Hereís what your BMI score means:

Underweight=Below 18.5 BMI
Normal=18.5 ñ 24.9
Overweight=25.0 ñ 29.9
Obesity=30.0 and Above
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Interpretation of Your BMI [5]

According to the NHLBI guidelines, a person with a BMI of 30 and above is considered obese.? This is equivalent to weighing 221 pounds in a 6' person and to weighing 186 pounds in someone who is 5'6". The BMI numbers apply to both men and women. Some very muscular people may have a high BMI without it meaning that they have increased health risk for OBESITY related diseases.

Individuals with abnormally high BMI are at increased risk of illness from:[6][7]

  • Hypertension
  • Lipid disorders
  • Type II diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Cardiovascular complications
  • Stroke
  • Gall bladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gout
  • Sleep apnea
  • Respiratory problems
  • Certain cancers
  • High cholesterol
  • All-cause mortality

As BMI levels rise, average blood pressure and total cholesterol levels increase and average HDL (or good cholesterol) levels decrease.[8]

Women in the highest OBESITY category have four times the risk of hypertension, high blood cholesterol, or both.[9]

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Waist Circumference

Determine your waist circumference by placing a measuring tape snugly around your waist. It is a good indicator of your abdominal fat, which is a predictor of your risk for developing heart disease and other weight-related diseases. A waist circumference of over 35 inches in women signifies increased risk in those who have a BMI of 25 to 34.9.

The table, Risks of Obesity-Associated Diseases by BMI and Waist Circumference,, provides you with an idea of whether your BMI combined with your waist circumference may increase your risk for developing OBESITY associated diseases or conditions.

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Other Risk Factors

Besides being overweight or obese, there are additional risk factors for disease to consider:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High LDL-cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol)
  • Low HDL-cholesterol ("good" cholesterol)
  • High triglycerides
  • High blood glucose (sugar)
  • Family history of premature heart disease
  • Physical inactivity
  • Cigarette smoking

Some risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high total cholesterol with low HDL, and high blood glucose can often be brought back to healthy levels by weight loss and physical activity.? If you are overweight, but do not have any of the above risk factors, you should still monitor your weight and prevent further weight gain.

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Talk to your doctor to see if you are at an increased risk for these health conditions and to determine if you should lose weight. Your doctor will evaluate your BMI, waist measurement, and other risk factors for heart and other diseases.[10] [ To Top ]

Losing Weight Safely

The most successful strategies for weight loss have been proven to include calorie reduction, increased physical activity, and behavior therapy designed to improve eating and physical activity habits.

Reducing dietary fat alone--without reducing calories--will not produce weight loss.

Cutting back on dietary fat can help reduce calories and is a heart-healthy start to a new diet.

A reasonable time line for people who are overweight and need to achieve a 10 percent reduction in body weight is six months of treatment, with a weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week.

For more information on how to achieve a healthy weight check out this page and the Resources.

What you weigh is the result of several factors:

  • How much and what kinds of food you eat
  • Whether your lifestyle includes regular physical activity
  • Whether you use food to respond to stress and other situations in your life
  • Situations in your life
  • Your physiologic and genetic make-up
  • Your age and health status.

Most overweight people should lose weight gradually. For safe and healthy weight loss, try not to exceed a rate of 1-2 pounds per week. Sometimes, people with serious health problems associated with OBESITY may have legitimate reasons for losing weight rapidly. If so, a physician's supervision is the way to go.[11]

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Find a Dietitian Near You

What's Your Body Fat IQ?

Get Nutrition Fact Sheets at:
American Dietetic Association
Consumer Education Team
216 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60606-6995
(Send self addressed stamped envelope)
Call 800-877-1600, ext. 5000 for other publications or 800-366-1655 for recorded food/nutrition messages.

American Obesity Association
1250 24th Street, NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20037

The Council on Size and Weight Discrimination
P.O. Box 305
Mt. Marion, NY 12456
(Send self-addressed stamped envelope)

Department of Nutrition Sciences
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Birmingham, AL 35294

Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
877-FTC-HELP (toll-free)

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
National Institutes of Health
Building 31
Room 9A04 Center Drive
MSC 2560
Bethesda, MD 20892-2560

North American Association for the Study of Obesity
8630 Fenton Street
Suite 918
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Shape Up America!
c/o WebFront Solutions Corporation
15757 Crabbs Branch Way
Rockville, MD 20855
301-258-0540 [ To Top ]

This website is an information resource center and does not provide medical advice.
Information from website should not be a substitute
for medical advice from a health care professional.