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Fact and Fiction: The BMI

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In our last post, we looked at the importance of healthy skin care during the summer by exploring proper sunscreen usage. With summer hot on our tails, many of us are concerned about both our health and our appearance. We will explore the connection between health and beauty in ongoing blogs, but for now we are going to take a look at the science behind the BMI and the connection between weight and health.

The Online Drugstore is also an online health store with a wide variety of health-oriented products to give you the best life possible. Learning about health can be a tricky thing, however — especially with all the mixed messages we get while consuming media. Let this online health store make navigating these choppy waters a bit easier.

BMI: What Is It?

It’s widely believed that our health is intimately intertwined with a measurement on a chart called the Body Mass Index (BMI). For many of us, we worry about whether this index labels us as overweight, which can impact both our health and our self-perception. But it’s also the case that the details of the BMI — and its shortcomings as an indicator of health — are not as widely known.

The BMI was invented in the early 19th-century by a Belgian mathematician (not a physician) named Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet. The BMI uses a simple ratio of height and weight to categorize a person as underweight, healthy, overweight, obese, or extremely obese. Basically, you divide your weight (in pounds) by your height in inches squared to get a number that falls into one of the above categories. If, for instance, you are 5’6” tall and weigh in at 160 lbs., then your BMI would register you as overweight. Drop five pounds and you register as healthy. This means that the BMI incorporates sharp boundaries between healthy weights and unhealthy weights, with the difference hinging on just a decimal place. As we will see, the rigidity of such measurements is not always a useful approach to understanding health.

Limitations of BMI

The first thing to notice about the BMI is its simplicity. By limiting the number of variables that are taken into consideration, the BMI is also limiting its applicability. The only two considered variables are height and weight. This doesn’t factor in a huge range of considerations that can impact your health, which can include the following:

  • Bone density
  • Muscle tone
  • Weight distribution
  • Family history
  • Genetics
  • Lifestyle
  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol
  • Blood sugar levels
  • Mental health

Each of these variables can greatly impact whether or not someone is “healthy.” A common example of the BMI being misleading comes in the case of athletes. Athletes often have strong bone density and a good deal of muscle mass, which can lead them to registering as overweight or even obese on the BMI. Nevertheless, athletes typically incorporate great amounts of physical activity and disciplined nutrition plans. Athletes, then, are often extremely healthy by a variety of measures, despite being considered overweight or obese by the standards of the BMI. This is the case for many folks aside from athletes as well.

The reality is that, despite the medical tenure of the BMI in the U.S., it doesn’t tell us a whole lot about a person’s health. Providing sharp boundaries for when a person is “overweight” and “healthy” can be misleading, and even lead to negative consequences such as the perpetuation of eating disorders and further stigmatizing body sizes that fall outside of the perceived ideal. As an online health store, it is important that we provide the best tools for making you as genuinely healthy as possible. The limitations of the BMI can be important to keep in mind when assessing your own level of health.

Holistic Approach To Health

As hard as it can be, it is important to remember that health is more than just appearance. It is easy to judge ourselves as unhealthy when we receive an unwanted label from the BMI or when our clothes are fitting a bit more snug than we’d like. But only focusing on appearance as a way to judge health can lead to a range of negative consequences.

The notion of the “ideal body weight” can, for instance, lead to us to ignoring or failing to prioritize other risk factors. It would be a mistake to focus on mere appearance over more useful numbers like blood pressure and cholesterol, especially when heart disease and stroke are the leading killers in the U.S. today. But we can’t see blood pressure or cholesterol when we look in the mirror. Same with mental health. Moreover, the science behind what should be considered a healthy weight is surprisingly (and often frustratingly) complex. There is even research indicating that there can be healthy levels of obesity. These are all important considerations when assessing our health.

Remembering to factor in a variety of variables is considered a “holistic” approach to health. It is needlessly limiting to only look at health and weight as the primary (let alone exclusive) determinants of a healthy person. Looking at other variables is more complicated, and this can sometimes make it overwhelming, but it can nonetheless lead us to overall healthier lives. This online health store has a variety of products that can help us lead healthy lifestyles, and, as always, it’s important to discuss your health with healthcare professionals.

Your Online Health Store

As a Top Rated National® Online Drugstore, we take your health very seriously. We provide products that are geared toward holistic health and well-being. It is always important to keep in mind the complexities of healthy living, and to consult your pharmacist and physician with any questions. The purpose of this blog post has been to shine a light on some of the scientific limitations and psychological implications for over-reliance on the BMI. This isn’t to say that it’s a useless measure, but — like any good suppertime meal — it should probably be taken with a grain of salt.