Body Mass Index: Understand What It Is and How It’s Used

A closeup of a woman's feet standing on a scale with an unraveled tape measure in the foreground.

When you visit the doctor for your annual physical exam or visit the gym to begin a training regimen, you may have encountered the physical measurement of BMI.

Along with your weight, this specific numbered percentage helps doctors, trainers and even yourself determine where your current weight and height align on the meter for ideal body weight.

Often used interchangeably with weight itself, BMI is a good baseline indicator to help you determine the next steps you need to take to reach a healthy weight, whether you are categorized as underweight, overweight or obese.

Even if you know your weight, height and BMI number, do you understand what it is and how it’s calculated? If not, that’s what we’re here to help you with.

Let’s discuss BMI, including precisely what it is and how it’s used.

What is BMI, and how is it calculated?

BMI stands for “body mass index” and is a calculated measurement of a person’s body size. Its formula uses height and weight to determine your precise percentage of body mass.

To calculate BMI, you take a person’s weight in pounds divided by their height in inches squared, multiplied by the conversion factor of 703. This specific calculation is an easy way to determine whether a person is underweight, overweight or within the parameters of the ideal weight for their height.

There are also various online BMI calculators that you can use to determine your BMI quickly and easily.

How do I know my weight status based on my BMI?

There are standardized weight status categories that directly correlate to your BMI percentage result. According to the CDC, BMI categorizes weight status to BMI as follows:

BMIWeight Status
Below 18.5%Underweight
18.5% – 24.9%Healthy Weight
25.0% – 29.9%Overweight
30.0% and aboveObese

After I have my BMI results, how is it used?

As you may know, BMI, although common, is thrown around frequently in the discussion of weight.

Aside from helping you understand where you stand as far as maintaining a healthy weight, BMI is also a good indicator for things like health conditions, potential risk of developing weight-related diseases and the current effect of your body mass on the health of your body.

Although BMI cannot be confirmed as 100% accurate, it is the best and most comprehensive way to determine your body’s mass outside of looking at weight alone. In some rare instances, BMI is not an ideal gauge of body fat percentage, especially in highly-trained athletes with high muscle mass that increases their total weight.

What health issues are related to a high BMI?

Those who are classified as “overweight” or “obese” are at higher risk of developing certain health conditions and illnesses, including:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sleep apnea
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Some cancers (endometrial, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder and liver)
  • Mental illness such as clinical depression or anxiety

A full-picture view of your current health close to home

If you don’t know your current BMI, it may be a good idea to consider a wellness visit at your local urgent care center or doctor’s office to determine your standings.

At Oxford Urgent Care, we pride ourselves on measuring all of your vitals during each physical exam. The more informed you are on all aspects of your health, including your weight and BMI, the better able you are to combat the risk of developing potentially life-altering diseases and conditions.