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Diagnosis of Obesity
These tables give general ranges of healthy weights and overweight for adult height. The tables do not take into account individual conditions. For one thing, they do not distinguish fat from muscle, water, or bone. They are much less helpful than body mass index in identifying risk of health problems related to weight.
Body fat percentage
Many health professionals agree that percentage of body weight that is fat is a good marker of obesity. Men with more than 25% fat and women with more than 32% fat are considered obese.
Body fat percentage is difficult to measure accurately, however. Special equipment is needed that is not found at most medical offices. The methods used at health clubs and weight-loss programs may not be accurate if not done properly. Inexpensive scales for home use that estimate body fat are now widely available. They may not be entirely accurate, but are generally consistent, so may be used over time to track one's progress.
Waist measurement is also an important factor. People with "apple" shapes, who tend to put on weight around their waist, have a higher risk of obesity-related health problems. This includes women with a waist measurement of greater than 35 inches and men with a waist measurement of greater than 40 inches.
Body mass index
A measure called the body mass index (BMI) is used to assess your weight relative to your height. It is defined as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared (kg/m 2). It can also be calculated for weight in pounds and height in inches.
Body mass index is closely related to body fat percentage but is much easier to measure. Therefore, it is used by many primary-care providers to identify obesity. The greater your BMI, the higher your risk of developing health problems related to excess weight.
To calculate your body mass index, follow these steps:
What does BMI tell you?
To calculate your body mass index on the Internet, fill in your height and weight at the web site of the government's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Obesity Education Initiative (http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/).
Gayle M. Galletta, MD, FACEP
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