|One of the most commonly discussed topics between patients and doctors is weight-loss. It’s estimated that almost 6,000 New Yorkers die annually as a result of obesity and, with a combined overweight-obesity rate of over 60%, Brooklyn is no exception.
"To determine if you are considered healthy, overweight or obese, we use BMI, which stands for Body Mass Index," says Dr. Ravi Saksena, Pediatrician and Principal Investigator of a New York State Department of Health Grant to screen and prevent childhood obesity. BMI is calculated by taking a person's weight and dividing it by their height squared. "Research has determined that the number from this calculation is a good way of determining what proportion of a person's body weight is from fat."
For adults, Dr. Saksena recommends maintaining a BMI between 20 and 25. A BMI below 20 is considered underweight, between 25 and 29 is considered overweight, and above 30 is obese. Though BMI has shown to be an easy method of measuring body fat, there are exceptions. "A person who works out often and has more muscle mass will end up having a higher BMI, so he or she may be considered overweight based on their BMI. This is one situation when a higher BMI doesn't correlate with being unhealthy." For kids, other factors in addition to BMI are considered. "Since the bodies of children change with time, they’re monitored by BMI-percentile. Below the 5th percentile is considered underweight, between the 85th and 94th percentile is considered overweight and the 95th percentile and above is obese," Dr. Saksena explains.
The main reason that doctors are so concerned with BMI is because studies have shown that the higher your BMI, the higher your risk for health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and stroke. So how can you improve your BMI? "Improving your BMI is all about what you put into your body and how much energy you expend. If you eat healthy and exercise, you will see your BMI come down over time ," says Dr. Saksena. However, it's not recommended that children lose weight rapidly to improve their BMI in the same way an adult might. "As kids get older and grow taller, their BMI percentile goes down. As long as they don't gain weight, their BMI can stabilize with age."
It's easy to get frustrated while trying to lose weight, but Dr. Saksena suggests shifting the focus from the numbers. "Focus on being healthy – what you're eating and how much exercise you're getting. If you do that, the numbers should take care of themselves."
To calculate BMI in adults, refer to the Body Mass Index Calculator.
To calculate BMI in children, refer to the BMI Percentile Calculator for Child and Teen.
Dr. Ravi Saksena
Dr. Ravi Saksena is a pediatrician at the Maimonides Infants & Children's Hospital in Brooklyn, NY. He attended medical school at the University of Rochester School of Medicine. He then completed his residency at Montefiore Medical Center. Dr. Saksena is also the Principal Investigator of the New York State Department of Health Grant to screen and prevent childhood obesity.
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