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Body Mass Index

One of the most common topics patients address with their doctors is weight loss. One-third of Americans today are overweight. Exceeding an ideal body weight is caused by genetic, socioeconomic, and physiological factors. However, doctors today see excess weight as an important, treatable medical condition.

There are several ways of measuring your ideal body weight. One of the most popular methods to gauge whether or not you are overweight is the body mass index (BMI). Body mass index BMI is calculated by dividing a person's weight (in kilograms) by his or her height (in meters, squared). BMI can also be calculated by multiplying weight (in pounds) by 705, then dividing by height (in inches) twice. People with BMIs of 25 and above are considered to be overweight. The chart below shows examples of body mass indexes. The figure at which your height corresponds with your weight is your body mass index. Having a body mass index over 30 places you at risk for developing obesity-related medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease. A BMI over 40 indicates that a person is morbidly obese.

Weight (lbs) Height (feet, inches)
  5'0" 5'3" 5'6" 5'9" 6'0" 6'3"
140 27 25 23 21 19 18
150 29 27 24 22 20 19
160 31 28 26 24 22 20
170 33 30 28 25 23 21
180 35 32 29 27 25 23
190 37 34 31 28 26 24
200 39 36 32 30 27 25
210 41 37 34 31 29 26
220 43 39 36 33 30 28
230 45 41 37 34 31 29
240 47 43 39 36 33 30
250 49 44 40 37 34 31

Does being overweight lead to any medical risks?

The best reason to attain and maintain your ideal weight is to reduce or eliminate medical problems that are more likely to occur with increasing weight. These conditions include high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other medical problems. All of these conditions contribute to an overall increase in mortality (rate of death).

Are treatment plans available to help me lose weight?

There have been many treatment plans — from diets to pills — aimed at reducing weight. However, being overweight is a chronic condition and therefore needs a long-term plan aimed at weight reduction.

Your doctor or registered dietician is the ideal person to initiate and monitor an organized treatment plan for you. This treatment plan should center on behavior modification. There are also many community organizations and resources for gathering information on weight loss.

What steps should I take to help me lose weight?

  • Decide you want to permanently lose weight.
  • Educate yourself.
  • Have a realistic goal in mind.
  • Formulate a structured treatment plan with your doctor and receive proper follow-up.
  • Understand that obesity is a long-term condition and it will require life-long attention.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 9/8/2008...#9464