The Body Mass Index and Your Health

In the 1830s, Belgian statistician Adolphe Quetelet set out to quantify the average man.1 One result of his endeavors became known as the body mass index, or the average weight of a human for their height. Since his definition, the body mass index(or BMI) has scarcely changed, and being too far above or below the average is considered a basic measure of poor health.

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The BMI varies by gender and bone size, however, the graph below can help you quickly guage your BMI and if you have a healthy weight.


To use the graph, find your weight in pounds on the bottom and follow the line up to your height. Where the two intersect is your BMI.

To get a more exact number you can use the BMI calculator, or you can use this table:

BMI
(kg/m2)
19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 35 40
Height
(in.)
Weight (lb.)
58 91 96 100 105 110 115 119 124 129 134 138 143 167 191
59 94 99 104 109 114 119 124 128 133 138 143 148 173 198
60 97 102 107 112 118 123 128 133 138 143 148 153 179 204
61 100 106 111 116 122 127 132 137 143 148 153 158 185 211
62 104 109 115 120 126 131 136 142 147 153 158 164 191 218
63 107 113 118 124 130 135 141 146 152 158 163 169 197 225
64 110 116 122 128 134 140 145 151 157 163 169 174 204 232
65 114 120 126 132 138 144 150 156 162 168 174 180 210 240
66 118 124 130 136 142 148 155 161 167 173 179 186 216 247
67 121 127 134 140 146 153 159 166 172 178 185 191 223 255
68 125 131 138 144 151 158 164 171 177 184 190 197 230 262
69 128 135 142 149 155 162 169 176 182 189 196 203 236 270
70 132 139 146 153 160 167 174 181 188 195 202 207 243 278
71 136 143 150 157 165 172 179 186 193 200 208 215 250 286
72 140 147 154 162 169 177 184 191 199 206 213 221 258 294
73 144 151 159 166 174 182 189 197 204 212 219 227 265 302
74 148 155 163 171 179 186 194 202 210 218 225 233 272 311
75 152 160 168 176 184 192 200 208 216 224 232 240 279 319
76 156 164 172 180 189 197 205 213 221 230 238 246 287 328
Source: https://www.consumer.gov/weightloss/bmi.htm
  • A BMI below 18 is underweight.
  • A BMI from 18 up to 25 refers to a healthy weight.
  • A BMI from 25 up to 30 is overweight.
  • A BMI 30 or higher is obesity.
The goal is to try maintain a BMI that puts you in a healthy weight, or that is to say, a BMI of 18-25.2

Body fat, waist size, muscle mass, and the BMI
The BMI is purely a ratio of height and weight, and thus some people criticize it as being an inaccurate health assessment. This can be true if you are an athlete with large amounts of muscle mass but not body fat. To mitigate this problem, waist circumference is often considered when assessing overall health with the BMI.


Epidemiological studies show that waist size is correlated with the development of future health problems, leading to the claim that fat on the thighs and hips is relatively healthy.2 The table below gives a rule of thumb guide to possible health risks as a function of both waist size and BMI.

Risk of Associated Disease According to BMI and Waist Size

BMI Waist less than or equal to
40 in. (men) or
35 in. (women)
Waist greater than
40 in. (men) or
35 in. (women)
18.5 or less Underweight -- N/A
18.5 - 24.9 Normal -- N/A
25.0 - 29.9 Overweight Increased High
30.0 - 34.9 Obese High Very High
35.0 - 39.9 Obese Very High Very High
40 or greater Extremely Obese Extremely High Extremely High
Source: https://www.consumer.gov/weightloss/bmi.htm

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    1. Garabed Eknoyan (2008). "Adolphe Quetelet (1796-1874) - the average man and indices of obesity". In: Nephrol. Dial. Transplant. 23 (1): 47-51.
    2. HHS Tackles Obesity
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