Maintaining a healthy body weight can protect you from a variety of illnesses. By assessing your body’s healthy weight and maintaining it as much as possible, you will be armed with an additional tool to stay in shape!
In order to reach optimum health, it is recommended that you calculate your healthy body weight using the Body Mass Index (BMI) in combination with your waist circumference.
To calculate your BMI, you must divide your weight in kilograms by your height in square metres. Let’s take the example of a person weighing 68 kg and measuring 1.65 metres tall:
Weight (kg) ÷ height (m)2 = 68 kg ÷ (1.65 m)2 = 24.97
Thus, this person has a BMI of 25.
To calculate your waist circumference, you must measure your abdomen at hip height with a tape measure.
Optimal BMI should be between 18.5 and 24.9 if you do not have any other conditions that influence the results (for example, if you are pregnant). Your waist circumference should be approximately 80 cm for women and 94 cm for men.
Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight can be beneficial to you in the long term. Below are some of the benefits of maintaining a healthy weight:
- Reducing the risk of heart disease;
- Reducing the risk of stroke;
- Reducing the risks of developing some forms of cancer;
- Controlling non-insulin dependent diabetes;
- Relieving back and joint tension;
- Increasing energy levels;
- Optimizing the immune system;
- Reducing the risks of osteoporosis;
- Reducing infertility risks;
- Reducing the risk of anaemia;
- Having more self-esteem;
- Increasing energy and welfare levels.
Below are several tips to help you maintain a healthy weight:
- Make educated food choices. Avoid foods that contain sugar, fats and high calorie levels.
- Eat a lot of fruit and vegetables.
- Practise physical activity at least 3 times a week. Walk rather than taking the car whenever possible. Use stairs rather than taking the elevator, etc.
- Introduce good lifestyle habits, such as drinking lots of water, getting enough sleep, etc.
- Limit your alcohol consumption.
- Weigh yourself on a regular basis using a bathroom scale on a flat surface, preferably at the same time of day and without clothing.
Here’s why BMI may not matter
It’s important to recognize that BMI itself is not measuring “health” or a physiological state (such as resting blood pressure) that indicates the presence (or absence) of disease. It is simply a measure of your size. Plenty of people have a high or low BMI and are healthy and, conversely, plenty of folks with a normal BMI are unhealthy. In fact, a person with a normal BMI who smokes and has a strong family history of cardiovascular disease may have a higher riskof early cardiovascular death than someone who has a high BMI but is a physically fit non-smoker.
And then there is the “obesity paradox.” Some studies have found that despite the fact that the risk of certain diseases increases with rising BMI, people actually tend to live longer, on average, if their BMI is a bit on the higher side.
Should we stop giving so much “weight” to BMI ?
That’s exactly what’s being asked in the discussion generated by a new study. For this study, researchers looked at how good the BMI was as a single measure of cardiovascular health and found that it wasn’t very good at all:
- Nearly half of those considered overweight by BMI had a healthy “cardiometabolic profile,” including a normal blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
- About a third of people with normal BMI measures had an unhealthy cardiometabolic profile.
The authors bemoaned the “inaccuracy” of the BMI. They claim it translates into mislabeling millions of people as unhealthy and also overlooking millions of others who are actually unhealthy, but are considered “healthy” by BMI alone.
Actually, this should come as no surprise. BMI, as a single measure, would not be expected to identify cardiovascular health or illness; the same is true for cholesterol, blood sugar, or blood pressure as a single measure. And while cardiovascular health is important, it’s not the only measure of health! For example, this study did not consider conditions that might also be relevant to an individual with an elevated BMI, such as liver disease or arthritis.
As a single measure, BMI is clearly not a perfect measure of health. But it’s still a useful starting point for important conditions that become more likely when a person is overweight or obese. It’s a good idea to know your BMI but it’s also important to recognize its limitations.
Once we learn about all the benefits to be had from reaching a healthy weight, we understand the importance of adopting measures to avoid obesity, as much among children and adolescents as among adults. If you feel you could stand to lose some weight or are concerned about the effects that excess weight could have on your health, speak to your pharmacist or doctor.
You can also call upon the expertise of other professionals, such as a nutritionist, to help you establish an action plan to maintain your healthy weight.
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