BMI and your health: What you need to know

Youíve likely heard the term ëBMIí being bandied about even if you donít really know what it is. Your GP might have even used it to inform you that youíre underweight or overweight. 
BMI (Body Mass Index) is a figure calculated using a personís measurements to establish whether they are at a healthy weight for their height. Nearly two centuries ago in the 1830s, Adolphe Quetelet devised the formula to compare the weight of people of differing heights. 
The calculation is fairly simple: weight (kg) divided by height squared (m). So, if youíre 1.8 metres tall and weight 100kg, youíre BMI would be 30.86. 
There are five categories that you could be put into depending on your BMI. Note, that these BMI ranges are for adults only, but there is a separate one for children.
ï Underweight (<18.5)
ï Healthy weight (18.5 ñ 24.9)  
ï Overweight (25.0 ñ 29.9)
ï Obese (30.0 ñ 39.9) 
ï Morbidly obese (40>)
If you are considering the private sector for your healthcare needs, you can compare private medical insurance with Money Expert.
Reducing BMI 
BMI is connected to weight and height, so if your BMI is over 25, it is recommended that you lose weight, until you fall into a lower category.  
A healthy diet should include a balance of all the food groups, as well as plenty of vitamins and minerals. Itís also important that you are burning enough calories compared to the amount you consume. In general, you will need to take in 500 calories less each day to lose 2kg per week. Research has proven that it is possible to lose weight steadily by embarking on a healthy and balanced diet. 
The reason for the Body Mass Index isnít just to compare people who are overweight with those who are not. It has a real purpose, as in general, the higher the BMI, the more ëat riskí you are of serious medical conditions.
This claim has recently been backed up by new evidence that found both men and women with higher BMIs were more likely to suffer from gallstones. The risk increased by 7% per additional kilogram per square metre. The study by researchers are Copenhagen University Hospital, found that over 4,000 of the 78,000 participants developed gallstones, with many of those having BMIs of over 25.
Would you have ever thought that Brad Pitt or Jonny Wilkinson were overweight? According to the BMI index, when these two superstars were at their peak, in Fight Club and during the World Cup respectively, they werenít at a healthy weight. 
The reason behind these claims is that the BMI index is inaccurate. As the index only takes into account height and weight, without knowing whether the weight is due to fat or muscle, it canít provide accurate readings for athletes or pregnant women. 
Due to the inability to tell the difference between body types, there has been a lot of talk about whether BMI is of any use, with some even suggesting a new calculation.
Nick Trefethen, a professor at Oxford University, believes that so much trust has been put into the formula because of its precise nature, but that in reality, people are more complicated. He has developed a new equation, which he claims is more accurate than the current one: (1.3 x weight) divided by (height to the power of 2.5). 
Using the new formula, the same person weight 100kg and measuring 1.8 metres tall would have a BMI of 29.9 ñ shaving a point off the old system.  
However, itís not just the actual calculation that is a concern. The NHS has also said that the threshold of 25 points may not be applicable to everyone. People of different ethnicities, African and African-Caribbean in particular, are at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and so should strive to achieve a lower target of 23. 
The NHS follows guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, or NICE, which has also informed doctors and nurses that certain ethnicities could be at risk of diseases with a BMI below 25. 

Private medical insurance
Although the risk of conditions such as gallstones, and diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cancer should be enough to encourage people to lower their BMI, it often doesnít. This is perhaps down to the perception that BMI is irrelevant these days.
Although there are certain groups of people, such as ethnic minorities, athletes, pregnant or breastfeeding women and the elderly that it might not work for, on the whole itís still a relevant index. So much so that private medical insurance premiums are likely to be affected by a high BMI score. 
Following Americaís lead, itís thought that some insurers are paying close attention to weight and BMI when calculating health insurance premiums. The underwriting of medical insurance policies has become more sophisticated in recent years, with many more factors taken into consideration. One of the newer things that can affect the cost of insurance is BMI.
While Adolphe Queteletís calculation may have its flaws, its link to serious medical conditions and effect on the cost private medical insurance has certainly reinforced its relevance in the modern day.
If you are considering the private sector for your healthcare needs, you can compare private medical insurance with Money Expert.

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