When reviewing your BMI results [check out BodyEngine to find out your BMI], keep in mind that a BMI has its limits. For instance, BMI can overestimate body fat in athletes or others who have a muscular build. It’s also wise to review results in light of your gender because the recommended amount of body fat differs for men and women.
For women, a BMI showing body fat of 20 percent to 21 percent is considered ideal. (The average American woman has about 22 percent to 25 percent body fat.)
For men, the recommended amount of body fat is between 13 percent and 17 percent. (The average American man has approximately 17 percent to 19 percent body fat.)
When assessing a person's weight, many doctors use the BMI combined with a waist circumference measurement called the waist-to-hip ratio.
That’s because if most of your fat is around your waist, rather than at your hips, you’re at a higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. This risk increases with a waist size that is greater than 35 inches for women or greater than 40 inches for men.
In addition, carrying excess weight can put you at a higher risk for high blood pressure, gallstones, breathing problems and certain cancers.
If you are overweight but don't have a high waist measurement and have fewer than two heart-related risk factors (see box below), you may need to prevent further weight gain rather than actually lose weight.
If your BMI falls in the overweight range and you have two or more risk factors for heart disease and related health problems, you probably should lose weight.
Even a weight loss of just 5 percent to 10 percent of your current weight will help lower your risk of developing diseases. A reasonable and safe weight loss is one to two pounds per week.
One way to determine your desirable body weight is to use the following formula:
- Women: 100 pounds of body weight for the first five feet of height plus five pounds for each additional inch.
- Men: 106 pounds of body weight for the first five feet of height plus six pounds for each additional inch.
Being physically active and eating a balanced diet can help you achieve a healthy weight.
If it seems advisable to lose weight, consult a dietician, doctor or other health care provider.