What is the BMI Index?


Obesity is a primary cause of multiple fatal diseases in our country today such as diabetes and heart trouble.  Weight loss programs are a multi-billion dollar industry and so vested are we in slimming down for health and appearance sake, that prime time television has gotten in the act with reality shows. This article is to supplement the Life Management Center’s Weight Loss Hypnotherapy program.

Since 1980, the number of overweight and obese children has doubled. This means a new generation of teenagers is taking medications for adult diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. High cholesterol and high blood pressure also put these kids at risk for heart disease. Therefore, pediatricians and family doctors have added “BMI,” a measurement tool to diagnose obesity in adults, to the list of pediatric health screenings.

What exactly is “BMI?”

“BMI” stands for “body mass index” and is calculated based on height and weight. In adults, the same BMI numbers apply to men and women over age 20. However, since girls and boys grow at different rates from ages 2 to 20, the Centers for Disease Control derived separate “BMI-for-age” charts for kids.

What does the BMI value mean?

The list below defines various BMI results:
• Underweight: When the BMI is less than or equal to 5 percent.
• Normal: When the BMI is more than 5 percent but less than 85 percent.
• At risk of being overweight: When the BMI is between 85 percent and less than 95 percent.
• Overweight: When the BMI is 95 percent or greater.

Here are two examples:

If a 3-year-old girl’s BMI is 50 percent, that child is at a healthy weight. It also means that half of all 3-year-old girls have a higher BMI and half have a lower BMI than she does.

If a 3-year-old boy’s BMI is 90 percent, then he is at risk of being overweight. His BMI is higher than 90 percent of other 3-year-old boys and only 10 percent of boys his age have a higher BMI. This child’s doctor will probably recommend better nutrition and more exercise.

Can obesity be diagnosed before age two?

Since BMI is based on similar changes in height and weight, doctors can only predict with growth charts what a BMI would be once an infant reaches age two. For example, an 18-month-old boy that weighs 30 pounds (or a girl that weighs 28 pounds) is in the 95th percentile for weight. Neither child is necessarily at risk for being overweight because they are also in the 95th percentile for height and have tall parents. After age two, each of their BMIs can be calculated reliably. If they each follow the 95th percentile growth curve for height and weight, then the boy’s BMI will be in the 78th percentile and the girl’s BMI will be in the 65th percentile. Both would be considered to be at a healthy weight.

What if a child’s BMI is in the “95th percentile?”

A BMI of 95 percent or greater does not guarantee that a child will remain obese as an adult. However, unless something is done to improve that child’s diet and increase physical activity, there is a considerable risk. It is very important to identify the problem early, because the older the child, the more likely he or she will remain overweight. Twenty percent of overweight and obese 4-year-olds remain that way into adulthood. By adolescence, that percentage is as high as 80 percent.


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