The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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Food & Health

July 8, 2014

BMI not a total picture of health

DEAR DR. ROACH: About seven years ago, my blood pressure was high, and I was overweight and in a stressful job.

I quit the job, my blood pressure went down, and I lost over 40 pounds. I have kept the weight off all these years. I work part time, standing on my feet about 25 hours a week. My doctor has been happy with me. At my last appointment, I was told my BMI is too high and that I am obese.

Where did this “BMI” come from? I am 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weigh 194 pounds. I am a large-framed woman (I delivered 12-pound babies through NATURAL childbirth!). Now I feel like I should forget it and go back to eating what I want, when I want! — P.S.

ANSWER: BMI, the body mass index, is a way of determining obesity by standardizing weight for people of different heights. It is equal to weight (in kilograms) divided by height (in meters) squared. BMI predicts the development of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even overall mortality rates moderately well. It is certainly not a perfect measurement. Someone whose BMI is obese (over 30) might have very little body fat; he or she might be very muscular or have larger bones than another person of the same height.

Some physicians measure waist circumference, since that looks at abdominal fat, and research shows that using both measurements gives a more complete picture of health.

Personally, I congratulate you for getting and keeping off 40 pounds, and think you made a wise investment in your health by finding a less-stressful job. Your BMI is 31, just in the “obese” range. However, women of your BMI but whose waist circumference is less than 31.5 inches (80cm) have a much lower risk of medical complications later than those with a waist circumference above 31.5 inches.

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