Often this measure alone can determine whether or not you should receive lifestyle treatment. However, what does it really tell you about your health and how helpful is this measure when assessing the effect of a lifestyle (diet/exercise) intervention?
This measure is quite useful across large populations and is well correlated with the degree of adiposity (overweight/obesity) that may exist. It is a simple measure to be done, for quick and easy results. Nevertheless, there are some key issues to consider with BMI, particularly when used on an individual basis. Weight is relative, in some respects. Those that are basically sedentary by nature, with little or no muscle mass; will get a more accurate evaluation when measuring their BMI. However, one that is fully loaded with muscles may get a BMI reading that gives them in a potentially inaccurate overweight evaluation.
For over 60 years, the medical community has recognized that independent of how heavy a person is, the distribution of their body weight or, more particularly – the shape of their body – can be a key predictor of health risk. It is now well established that those who deposit much of their body weight around their midsection – the so-called apple-shaped body – are at much greater risk of disease and early mortality in contrast to the so-called pear-shaped body, where weight is carried in the lower body areas. For this reason, two individuals who each of a BMI of 32 could have drastically different body shapes and suffer varying risks of disease and early mortality.
There is a simple measure which allows you or your doctor to decide whether your elevated BMI is of the apple or pear variety: waist circumference. Current studies suggest that a waist circumference above 34.6 inches in women and 48 inches in men denotes abdominal obesity. For the same BMI level, those individuals with an elevated waist circumference have a greater risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mortality and numerous other health outcomes. Therefore, waist circumference may be the more important measure of obesity and a potential for health risk than BMI.
Currently, most physicians agree that both waist circumference and BMI should be measured to adequately classify an obesity-related health condition.
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