Weight is a common factor that people often reference when determining the quality of their own general health. While there are standards that correlate the relationship of weight to one’s condition of health, the true significance of one’s weight must be measured by more than just what is on the scale. There are actually many factors that separate a healthy weight from unhealthy weight. Since everybody’s body is slightly different, a scale can only offer a single component necessary for comparing one’s mass to that of a generic cross section of people with similar dimensions. To more accurately and personally determine the relation of one’s weight to their own personal physical chemistry, the Body Mass Index (BMI) is a heuristic way of estimating the overall weight ratio quality.
History of BMI
The BMI was invented in the mid 1800s by a Belgian statistician named Adolphe Quetelet. The original name for this formula was the Quetelet Index, but in 1972 it was change to the BMI by a scientist named Ancel Keys who slightly modified the equation from its original form and popularized it in the West. Using a mathematic equation, Quetelet asserted that it was possible to determine one’s ideal weight for their height. Keys went further to suggest that the BMI could be used as a proxy of measurement for quickly determining the fat content ratio of a population sampling for the purposes of charting the then burgeoning epidemic of obesity. However, the formula’s simplicity and popularity soon caused many practitioners and health professionals to begin applying the formula to individual patients despite Keys’ explicit opposition. Today, the government office known as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses the BMI for monitoring the weight of Americans in the struggle against a national epidemic of obesity. The CDC’s website is full of supplementary information on the BMI, which includes a very simple calculator for both adults and children at http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/. It should be noted that the BMI does not determine one’s body fat content, but is a general referencing scale for healthy proportions of weight to height.
Why it Matters
While the BMI may not be as accurate as other medical testing to determine body fat content, it is an excellent reference point for determining a healthy weight approximation for one’s height. Referencing the BMI is widely promoted because it objectively offers individuals a simple range of indication without the influences of media. Too often, young minds are inclined to believe that magic numbers like 100 pounds are ideal weights, but the BMI helps clarify that this weight is actually only healthy for adults under the height of 5 foot 3 inches. The BMI personalizes weight for everybody through objective mathematics and removes personal opinions of popular body image. Following the recommendations of the BMI chart for adults is very easy, but children are measured in accordance with a graph that is specifically generated based on the norms of their community. This is why the CDC offers adult and child BMI calculators that will yield slightly different height and weight ratios for different communities.
How it’s Measured
Calculating one’s BMI can be done using one of three methods for adults. First, a BMI reference chart featuring a graph of heights to weight axis with BMI zones outlined is an excellent quick reference. Another way for adults to check their BMI is to perform the following calculation: divide total weight in pounds (lbs) by height in inches (in) squared, and then multiply that total by a conversion factor of 703. A last option, and the one most recommended for use when determining the BMI of children, is to use an online calculator. The National Heart and Lung Institute, the CDC and even many independent websites such as http://www.bmi-calculator.net/ provide a simple interface for quick calculation. The information is readily available and highly promoted because BMI is a way of determining obesity or malnutrition. The results of a BMI check can also establish patterns that may give early warning signs of heart disease.
Some may be shocked to learn that the BMI is not an exact science designed for individual diagnosis, but that does not mean that it is not a helpful guide for determining one’s personal healthy parameters. The results are an objective way to monitor and track changes of weight in constant relation to one’s height. A licensed physician can then perform more specific medical tests to determine the exact fat content of one’s body if the BMI gives an indication that further appraisal is necessary.