People come in different sizes and body types. Extreme thinness may be the current fashion but it's not necessarily a measure of health. Like extreme obesity, extreme thinness has its risks. Most peoples' weight falls somewhere between these two extremes and is as much influenced by genetics (what their parents and grandparents look like) as by their own efforts. Permanently modifying weight is a tough task, often made harder by the ways in which the very profitable diet industry encourages people to approach it. If you have concerns about the relationship of your current weight to your health, complete this exercise. Health risk is certainly not the only reason that people choose to lose weight or become fit. But the extent to which your current weight adds to your health risk may help you clarify your goals and find your motivation for change. It's an important part of the whole picture of weight, food and fitness in your life.
Weight by itself is no longer considered to be a good indicator of health risk. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommends a three-part assessment of weight and risk:
- Body Mass Index (BMI), which estimates your total body fat by relating your height and weight.
- Waist measurement, which is an indicator of abdominal fat (fat in the belly, around the organs). Abdominal fat increases risk for heart disease, diabetes and other types of illness more than fat in other areas of the body.
- Disease risk factors. By viewing your body size in relation to other disease risk factors, you get a clearer picture of how weight maintenance, gain or loss may play a role in your long-term health.
For More Information
- Body Mass Calculator for Adults (CDC)
- Body Mass Calculator for Children (CDC)
- Body-Mass Index and Mortality (Letters to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine)
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