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Your doctor may tell you that because of your BMI you need to lose weight to improve your health status.  What does the BMI actually tell you about your health?  Although it is not encouraged to solely use the BMI as a standard for body fat, a new study shows that it may be a good indicator of your heart health.

What is BMI?

BMI stands for Body Mass Index and is a weight to height ratio that is calculated by your mass in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared.  The result is a numeric measure of your thickness or thinness that can be used to assess your body weight in relation to a desirable body weight for your height.   For example, the BMI determines that you are underweight if your value falls between 16.0-18.5, healthy weight from 18.5-25, overweight from 25-30, and obese from 30+.

What Does BMI Have to Do With My Heart Health?

A study was recently published in PLoS Medicine that examined the relationship between weight gain and traits unique to heart disease and metabolic disorders (diabetes).  The main objective was to identify if obesity causes these traits or if it is just an indicator of some other factor coming into play.  After analyzing data from some 200,000 participants, with the genetic method Mendelian randomization, the researchers were able to confirm that an increased BMI by one unit increases your risk for heart failure by 17%.  The study also found that an increased BMI increases your risk for developing diabetes by much greater than what was previously believed.

What This Means For You and Me

Sadly, weight gain is causing heart failure and diabetes, and is more harmful than we even imagined.  Luckily, our BMI is a helpful indicator of our risk for developing heart failure and diabetes and we can know if we are at an increased risk without even going to the doctor.  However, using our BMI to detect our risk should be something for us to worry about when we start to creep up into the overweight and obese ranges of the BMI scale.

Decrease Your Risk by Lowing Your BMI

Being overweight isn’t just connected to heart failure; we now know it causes it.  So, you can allow yourself to continue in that direction or you can take the actions to decrease your weight and BMI.  The best way to achieve weight loss is through a continued effort of recommitting yourself to a better diet and exercise plan.  Start out by saying no to a soda, taking a walk, or putting in a session on your home gym.  What is something in your life that you can change or give up to improve your weight?

It’s important to note that the BMI does not replace your measurement of body fat percentage, but rather can be used as a guide to your mass in regards to your height.  The best way to gauge how much weight you should lose is through basing fat loss from your body fat percentage.  You can find out your body mass percentage by some simple measurements, or ask your doctor to find out next time you’re in for a visit.  So, what will it be, are you going to take the steps to lose weight and decrease your risk for heart failure?  If so, how? – Start now.

“The Role of Adiposity in Cardiometabolic Traits: A Mendelian Randomization Analysis”
Sara Hägg equal contributor, Reedik Mägi equal contributor, Alexander Ploner, Krista Fischer, Momoko Horikoshi et. al.
PLoS Med 10(6): e1001474. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001474

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