BODY MASS INDEX: WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER?
Judging whether or not someone is a healthy weight is also difficult due the subjective nature of the idea of a healthy weight. What seems a perfectly normal size to one person, could be considered significantly overweight to another person. And no-one wants to hear that they look overweight, right? That's just cause for offence, whether it comes from a friend, family member or even doctor.
That’s why scientists – as fans of cold, hard quantitative measurements – created the Body Mass Index. This honest and impartial value is used to categorise a person as within a healthy weight range, under or overweight, in proportion to their height. You can't argue with the numbers.
What is the Body Mass Index? How do you calculate your BMI?
The BMI formula is simple: weight (kg)/ height (m)²
Find your BMI using our BMI Calculator here:
Please click for an expanded version of the Body Mass Index Calculator
So why all the fuss about weight?
The media loves to talk about weight and size, whether it be celebrities gossip of bikini bodies, or articles on whether certain foods make you gain or lose weight. But our modern society’s fascination with weight isn’t just from an aesthetic perspective, we’re also very conscious of the impact of weight on health.
We're even seeing obesity in children these days, due to overeating and poor diet choices - leading to a lifetime of ill health.
Simply speaking: your size has direct implications on your health.
If your BMI falls out of the healthy range, you are at risk of a plethora of diseases, including:
* Cardiovascular disease
* Joint damage
* Mental health issues
The more overweight you are, the higher your BMI, then the younger you may suffer the above issues. Do you really want to be at risk of a heart attack, or need a hip replacement, in your 30's? Then maybe it's time to pay attention!
Cardiovascular Disease & Cerebrovascular Disease
This is probably the most serious group of diseases, as a direct result of obesity. Medically-speaking, cardiovascular disease is the umbrella term for diseases of the heart and blood vessels, including life-threatening conditions such as:
- Heart attacks
- Blood clots
You don't have to be a brain surgeon to realise the severity of these diseases.
With many of these conditions, your risk factor for the development increases gradually with time - and your waistline! As cholesterol, blood pressure and weight increase, your risk for these diseases climbs steadily, and you may be oblivious to this until you find yourself in A&E. You can't tell someone has high blood pressure or cholesterol from just looking at them, so you'll never know your cardiovascular risk until you book a GP appointment and get tested!
But this is all preventable!
There are a few risk factors for cardiovascular disease that we can't avoid - age, family history and ethnicity being unfortunate inevitables. But all other risk factors are preventable. These include:
- Poor diet:
- High in saturated fats, sugar, salt
- High Cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Lack of exercise
- High blood pressure
- Excess alcohol consumption
Your diet and lifestyle choices hold the key to your health, including blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity and diabetes risk
If you think you have any of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, it's best to discuss your concerns with a GP, who can advise on the most appropriate lifestyle advice and appropriate testing.
Another consequence of obesity and poor diet is type 2 diabetes. This avoidable complication of obesity is well and truly on the rise in the UK. Back in 2000, there were no cases of type 2 diabetes in kids in the UK, since it's a disease generally associated with years and years of unhealthy lifestyle choices. Now, there are a staggering 500 new cases of type 2 diabetes diagnosed in children each year in the UK!
What is type 2 diabetes? How does it develop?
Type 2 diabetes mellitus develops as the result of constantly high levels of sugar in the blood, resulting in equally high insulin levels – the hormone that stimulates glucose uptake into cells. This exhausts and overwhelms insulin-receptors, which resultant become less sensitive to insulin. Therefore, less glucose is taken into cells, and blood glucose levels remain high.
In very mild cases, a type 2 diabetic can treat the condition with diet alone, regularly monitoring their blood glucose levels to ensure levels stay in optimum ranges. In most cases, the disease is controlled by one or more daily medications.
Ideally, blood glucose levels should be tightly regulated, as a deviation below or above this healthy range can result in severe consequences. In the short-term, low glucose levels (hypoglycaemia) can lead to loss of consciousness and coma. In the long-term, high glucose levels (hyperglycaemia) damage small nerves and vessels, as well as increased risk of cardiovascular disease including heart attack and stroke.
Blood glucose levels can be very easily monitored by means of a handy blood glucose meter
Patients who poorly manage their diabetes, allowing unmonitored glucose levels to fluctuate significantly, will suffer a myriad of potentially life-threatening complications, such as kidney disease, nerve damage in the extremities, damage to eyesight.
For anyone at risk of type 2 diabetes, doctors will recommend a couple of essential diabetes blood tests as part of a thorough diabetes check, including:
- Random Blood Glucose (RBG) test
- Fasting glucose test*
- HbA1c test for glycated haemoglobin.
These are very straightforward blood tests, with results available at London Doctors Clinic in just 4 hours, and give a strong indication of the risk, or stage, of type 2 diabetes development.
*Fasting Glucose test is preferably performed in the morning, having not eaten or had alcohol for 12 hours, for most accurate results.
But here’s the good news: type 2 diabetes can be reversible! On a new diagnosis, significant lifestyle changes to improve diet and lose weight can actually reverse the body’s resistance to insulin in some cases. Your GP can advise the specific dietary and lifestyle changes necessary.
A long-term implication of excess weight is irreversible damage to cartilage between bones. This resultant loss of cartilage causes bone to rub on bone, leading to inflammation and severe pain at the joint, known as Osteoarthritis.
Obese people are much higher risk of developing osteoarthritis in weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips. This kind of disease is more commonly seen in the elderly due to a lifetime of normal use, and thus the requirement of a hip replacement in your 80’s can be put down to reasonable wear-and-tear. But if you're severely overweight in your youth, you may be ensuring this operation decades earlier...
The disease process of Osteoarthritis is sped up in overweight people, who will likely develop arthritis in knees and hips at a much younger age
Mental health issues
There is a very strong link between obesity and depression, whether that be depression leading to overeating and obesity or vice versa. Once you're in the rut of being overweight and depressed, there's often a vicious cycle whereby the depression fuels the obesity, and vice versa.
Preventing obesity-related diseases
Overall, we all know how hard it is to lose weight, and that's why prevention is key! If you're starting to slowly pile on the pounds, why not pop in to see one of our friendly and affordable private GP's, to assess the situation before it gets out of control? One quick consultation can assess your BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, as well as discuss your lifestyle factors. There's always room for improvement!
By Keira Heslin-Davies