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What Is BMI?

Body mass index, or BMI, is a simple and inexpensive calculation that measures a person's body fat based on height and weight. The result can be used to help determine if a person is overweight or obese. This test does not measure body fat directly, but does correspond closely to direct measures of body fat.

Understanding BMI

More than 100 million adult Americans are overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese increases a person's chances for developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and other health problems. So how can an individual find out if he or she is overweight or obese? Research on obesity has shown that a calculation called body mass index (or BMI for short) can be used to measure body fatness.
BMI does not measure body fat directly, but corresponds closely to direct measures of body fat. Therefore, it can be considered an alternative to direct measures of body fat.
BMI is determined by a person's height and weight. Because the calculation requires only those two pieces of information, it is considered an inexpensive and easy method for healthcare providers and for the general public to use as a way of screening for weight categories that may lead to health problems (see Health Effects of Obesity).

How Is BMI Calculated?

There are a few ways to determine your BMI:
  • Calculate it using the BMI formula
  • Use the BMI chart
  • Use the BMI calculator.
Using any of these three methods will arrive at the same result. Everyone can use one of these three methods, regardless of age, gender, race, or ethnicity. There is no specific chart for women or men.
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