18 May

Carrying excess weight is a known health risk. Excess weight increases the heart’s workload and can raise your chances of getting a number of serious med- ical conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, adult-onset diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. It also can adversely affect your self-image and make it difficult to exercise. But how can you find out what is your ideal weight?

A healthy weight is actually a range of weight related to your height, but the number of pounds you register on your bathroom scale doesn’t tell the whole story. Your body composition—the percentage of your body that is made up of lean tissue, composed mainly of muscle and bone, or fat—also is important. Your body composition is partly determined by your genetic makeup and partly by your activity level. The more fat you have in relation to lean tissue, the less healthy you are, but it is somewhat difficult to measure how much of your weight is made up of fat. The best way to judge the percentage of body fat that you carry may be by looking at how active you are. The more physically active you are, the less body fat you are likely to carry. One easy way to assess your weight and whether it puts you at risk for health problems is to consult a table that gives you your body mass index (BMI) (see page 18).

If your weight falls outside the upper end of the range for your height, you may be moderately or severely overweight. Obesity (weighing more than 20 percent over the upper ideal weight range for your height) contributes to the development of diabetes, heart disease, and gallbladder disease. Obesity also complicates the treatment of and lowers the chances of survival of people with stroke, kidney disease, and numerous other disorders. Although the idea that obesity results from a lack of willpower is outdated, doctors are still unsure exactly why some people are overweight while others are not. Losing weight and keeping it off for life can be extremely difficult, but you can control your weight if your motivation stays high.

Where on your body you carry excess weight also is important. Most men store excess fat weight around their waists and abdomens, putting them at higher risk for early heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes than people (mainly women) who carry excess weight predominantly in the hips, buttocks, and thighs. You can determine your waist-to-hip ratio by first measuring your waist at its narrowest point and then measuring your hips at their widest point. Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. If the number is 1.0, or close to it, you are a typical “apple-shaped” man. If the number is a lot less than 1.0, you are “pear-shaped” and have less risk of future health problems. Where your body stores fat is largely an inherited tendency, although strenuous exercise has been shown to reduce body fat in general and fat stored at the abdomen in particular.

Doctors no longer believe that, as you age, it’s acceptable to gain up to 10 pounds over your normal weight when you were younger. Any additional weight over the accepted range for your height is now known to be a health risk, and the more you gain, the bigger your risk. So maintain your weight within the range that is normal for you and you’ll be better off in the long run (see weight chart on page 69).

The Body Mass Index

The body mass index (BMI) is a helpful tool for gauging whether your body weight falls in the healthful range or puts you at risk for future health problems. You can fig-
ure out your own BMI using the following formula:

1. Convert your weight to kilograms (1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds). For example, if you weigh 198 pounds, divide 198 by 2.2 to get 90 kilograms.
2. Convert your height to meters (1 meter = 39.37 inches). If you are 6 feet tall (72 inches), divide 72 inches by 39.37 to get 1.83 meters.
3. Divide your weight by your height squared to calculate your BMI. Divide 90 kilograms by 1.83 squared (1.83 ´ 1.83 = 3.35; 90 ÷ 3.35 = 26.9) to get a BMI of 27.

Then consult the following chart to see your risk for health problems.

With a BMI of 27, you are overweight. Talk to your doctor about starting a diet and exercise program to help you lose the excess weight.

It’s even simpler to consult the following table to find out your BMI. Find your height in the left-hand column and move across the row to your weight. The number at the top of the column is your BMI.

Body Mass Index Table

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