Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Weight Wise Numbers to Know

2 weight-wise numbers to know

By Michael W. Rosen, M.D.

Stepping on the scale. It's a morning ritual for many.

Yet, what the scale shows is just a number. It doesn't necessarily tell you if you're at a healthy weight. That's where two other simple measurements — body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference — can help.

Why these numbers matter
BMI is an estimate of body fat based on height and weight. Having too much excess fat raises your risk of health problems, including:
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Certain types of cancer, including breast and colon
  • Osteoarthritis
And, where you carry your extra weight may be important, too. For example, if it's mostly around your middle, you're at a higher risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

1. Calculate your BMI
To find yours, you can use an online BMI calculator. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers one at www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi.

Where you stand Body mass index for adults
Underweight Below 18.5
Normal weight 18.5 — 24.9
Overweight 25 — 29.9
Obese 30 or higher

2. Measure your middle
Here's how to check your waist circumference:
  • Place a measuring tape around your middle — just above your hip bones.
  • Make sure the tape rests directly on your skin. Check in a mirror to see if the tape is level all the way around.
  • Relax, exhale and measure your middle. The tape should be snug, but not too tight.
For men, measurements greater than 40 inches are considered risky. For women, the danger zone begins beyond 35 inches. Of course, this doesn't apply if you're pregnant.

Let your doctor weigh in
Talk with your doctor about these numbers. Ask how they might affect your health.

Keep in mind that they’re part of a much bigger picture. Other factors — your family history, health habits, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, for example — also matter a lot.

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