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What is the body mass index (BMI)?

Body mass index assesses your body weight relative to height. It's a useful, indirect measure of body composition because it correlates highly with body fat in most people. Weight in kilograms is divided by height in meters squared (kg/m2). In studies by the National Center for Health Statistics,

  • BMI values less than 18.5 are considered underweight.

  • BMI values from 18.5 to 24.9 are healthy.

  • Overweight is defined as a body mass index of 25.0 to less than 30.0. A BMI of about 25 kg/m2 corresponds to about 10 percent over ideal body weight. People with BMIs in this range have an increased risk of heart and blood vessel disease.

  • Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30.0 or greater (based on NIH guidelines) — about 30 pounds or more overweight. People with BMIs of 30 or more are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

  • Extreme obesity is defined as a BMI of 40 or greater.

Some well-trained people with dense muscle mass may have a high BMI score but very little body fat. For them, the waist circumference, the skinfold thickness or more direct methods of measuring body fat may be more useful measures.

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