What does your BMI tell you? Your BMI is a measure of how healthy you are.

Each week, we pose a health question for a medical professional. This week, a healthy weight question is: What is the BMI? Is that all? Jacqui van Kempenade, lifestyle expert and general practitioner: “Fat around the hips and buttocks are much healthier than fat around your stomach.”

What is the purpose of measuring BMI? Isn’t weight enough to tell us about our health and obesity?

“Weight is a powerful indicator of health, but it doesn’t tell everything. Consider a 95-kilos man. 95 kilos doesn’t necessarily make the man too heavy if he is nearly 2m tall. It all depends on how tall someone stands, so we also measure BMI.

It stands for Body Mass Index. It measures your body weight relative to height. The formula to calculate your BMI is your body weight divided squared by your height. For example, do you weigh 65 kilos and do you have a height of 1.69 meters, then your BMI is: 65/1.69² = 22.75.”

A healthy weight is defined as a BMI of between 18 and 25, which means that you should have a range from 18 to 25. Below 18 is considered underweight. Over 25 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 and higher is considered obese.

Is the BMI an accurate measure of your health?

“No. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a good example. His body weight was 104 kilos and his height was 1.86 meters. His BMI would be 30 if you calculate it. This makes him very overweight. He was still not obese. His fat percentage was only 7 percent. This is due to his high muscle mass. A high BMI is due to the fact that muscles are more heavy than fat.

“Some people are ‘thin on the outside, fat on the inside’, just think of the infamous beer belly.”

Jacqui van Kmenade, general practitioner

It’s also how fat is distributed.

“Right. Some people are tofis. Tofi can be translated as: The outside is thin and the inside is fat. You can think about the famous beer belly. Tofis are slim with a high BMI, but have a larger belly. The numbers say they are healthy, but in reality, belly fat poses a major health risk.”

Which kind of risk is it?

Because it lies between the organs and fat, “Belly fat” is unhealthy adipose. It can also produce inflammatory cells, which can have a negative impact on your blood vessels as well as your heart. To determine if your fat is at the wrong place or if you are at greater risk for your health, you need to measure your waist.

What if you have a flat stomach but lots of fat around your hips, legs, and buttocks.

“This is most common in women. The subcutaneous fat around the hips, buttocks, and legs is less harmful than belly fat. This is why your waist size is a good indicator for your health risk.

How can you measure your waist circumference?

“Measure the broadest part of your abdomen. Not where your belt is, but slightly higher than the navel. For men, the waist circumference should not exceed 102 cm and for women it should be no more than 88 cm.

Jacqui van Kempenade is a Breda general physician and the author of the books Living style with prescription’ and Een shotje Leefstijl (Publishing Scriptum).

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