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BMI For Women Is Not An Accurate Measurement Of Health, Why?

bmi for women

The BMI (Body Mass Index) is a way to measure how fat or thin you are. To find BMI for women, you can use the BMI calculator or the BMI chart.

Though it has been used for decades as the go-to measurement for health based on body size, it has been widely criticized for its oversimplification of what being healthy really means.

BMI, or Body Mass Index, is the measurement calculated by comparing your weight to your height.

Why? Because BMI does not take into account your lean body mass. Muscles and bones weigh much more than fat, so lighter weight people are not necessarily healthier.

In fact, many claim BMI is outdated and inaccurate and shouldn’t be used in medical and fitness settings.

BMI is only a reflection of your weight to your height. BMI does not take into account your body composition, how much fat you have versus lean body mass. Your weight can be artificially elevated if you’re constipated, suffering from water retention from traveling, eating too much sodium, or even from your hormones, like being premenstrual. 

BMI is not the best measurement of your health. So what is a better measurement?

BMI alternatives

Body fat percentage

Body fat percentage is the relative amount of body fat a person has.

bmi for women - fat

It distinguishes between fat mass and fat-free mass and is a more accurate representation of health risk than BMI. Special calipers are used to measure the size of skin folds in four locations on the body where fat is likely to accumulate. Measurements are taken from the front of the bicep, the back of the bicep, the shoulder blade, and the abdomen; these measurements are added together, and the result is listed on a chart that correlates the sum with body fat percentage.

Waist Circumference Measurement

The circumference of the waist can be used as a BMI alternative even without a hip measurement; this is useful for individuals who are obese or otherwise have difficulty making a hip measurement. Given the health risks associated with having a high percentage of abdominal fat, measuring waist circumference can give you an idea of whether you are at risk. 

  • Use a measuring tape.
  • Surround the measuring tape at the natural waist, that is, in between the lowest rib and top of the hip bone or at the navel button.
  • A waist circumference of more than 35 inches in women (34 inches in Asian women) and 40 inches (36 inches in Asian men) in men indicates higher abdominal fat. Higher abdominal fat is associated with several chronic diseases.
bmi for women - waist

According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, women with a waist circumference of over 35 inches and men with a waist circumference of over 40 inches have an increased risk of developing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Waist-to-Hip Ratio

Another test that uses hip circumference in measuring body fat, a waist-to-hip ratio comparison considers both the circumference of the hips and the circumference of the waistline to determine body composition. 

bmi for women - waist ratio

A measurement of the waist is taken at either the smallest point of the waist or just above the belly button and divided by a measurement of the widest part of the hips; results larger than 0.85 for women or 0.9 for men indicate abdominal obesity.

  • Measure the waist circumference.
  • Measure the hip at its widest diameter.
  • Divide waist measurement by hip measurement.
WHR for womenHealth risks for obesity-related conditions
0.8 or lowerLow
0.81 to 0.84Moderate
0.85 or higherHigh

Is BMI applied differently to Black women and People of Color?

The BMI is applied in the same way for white, Hispanic, and Black people. However, it’s been adjusted for Asian populations, because it underestimates obesity in this group.

People of Asian descent have a “normal-weight obesity” body type. This means that their BMI typically falls within the normal range, but they have a higher body fat percent at any given BMI 

Therefore, the BMI scale has been lowered to account for their body type and to correctly identify those at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is prevalent among Asian populations.

 An older study showed that ethnic differences in the body structure of Greenland Inuit populations compared with European and American white populations means that the BMI likely also overestimates overweight and obesity among the Inuit 

.Ethnic differences in body composition among women of African descent may be an underlying contributor to higher BMI rates among Black women. But those differences need to be studied to determine their clinical significance.

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