Body Mass Index and obesity: How are they connected?

Understanding body mass index can help to prevent excess body fat.

Obesity in America is a national health concern and it is at epidemic proportion in both adults and children. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, being obese is not about what you weigh, it's about having too much fat in your body. Carrying too much body fat has harmful effects on your health. One-third of adults age 20 and older are considered obese.

According to health professionals, there are both lifestyle and medical reasons for obesity:

  • Family history and genes
  • Some medications: antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, diabetes medications, steroids and beta blockers
  • Social networks and economics, such as having overweight friends and fewer financial resources
  • Lifestyle habits, such as eating behaviors and stress
  • Too little sleep can affect hormones that increase appetite
  • Medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, Prader-Willi and polycystic ovary syndrome

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a tool used to determine obesity in adults (Understanding Body Mass Index). Knowing your BMI can help you determine your risk of or degree of obesity. In adults, a BMI of 30.0 and above is considered obese.

For children, a BMI for age is used as a percentile on a growth chart in comparison to other children of the same age and gender. According to the Centers for Disease Control, determining a child’s weight percentile is a screening tool. This screening can indicate whether or not your child’s height and weight fall into a healthy range over time. Your pediatrician may do other assessments including skin fold thickness measurements and lab tests for cholesterol and blood sugar. If a child is overweight before age eight, his or her chance of more severe obesity during adulthood goes up.

If you think your child is overweight, talk it over with your doctor. Do not put children on a weight loss diet unless it is under the supervision of a doctor.

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