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Body Mass Index (BMI) for Adults

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Adapted from: U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; U.S. National Institutes of Health (2000). The Practical Guide: Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults. (NIH Publication No. 00-4084). Available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/prctgd_c.pdf

Use the chart to locate your height and weight. The shaded regions on the chart correspond to normal and overweight ranges based on body mass index (BMI). Keep in mind that this is only a guide. It is not a tool to determine ideal body weight. It is a tool to help you see whether your weight is increasing your risk for disease. People who are very muscular or those who have very little muscle may not get an accurate BMI by using their height and weight alone. Muscle weighs more than fat, so a muscular person may appear to have a higher BMI, or a frail, inactive person may have more body fat than is healthy.

For adults 20 years and older:

  • A BMI below 18.5 (shown in white) is considered underweight.
  • A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 (green) is considered healthy.
  • A BMI of 25 to 29.9 (yellow) is considered overweight.
  • A BMI of 30 or higher (red) is considered obese.
  • A person who has a large change in BMI, even if he or she is not overweight or underweight, should be evaluated to find the cause. If you are Asian, your health may be at risk with a lower BMI.1

A clinical diagnosis of obesity also includes a determination of your waist circumference and risk factors.

  • If you are within the healthy BMI range and your waist measurement is lower than the cutoff, stay at that weight and check your fitness level, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
  • In men, a waist circumference greater than 40 in. (101.6 cm) is considered a health risk. Women who have a waist size larger than 35 in. (88.9 cm) are considered at risk. In Asian people, health problems are seen with a smaller waist size. In Asian women, a waist size of 32 in. (80 cm) or more raises the chance for disease. In Asian men, a waist size of 36 in. (90 cm) or more raises the chance for disease.2
  • If you are in the overweight (BMI of 25 to 29.9) or obese (BMI of 30 or higher) category and your waist measurement is higher than the cutoff level, talk to your doctor about other risk factors you may have, including type 2 diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and being inactive. If you have two or more risk factors, your doctor will probably advise you to lose weight and to change your eating and physical activity habits to reduce your risk factors for blood vessel disease, such as coronary artery disease (CAD), peripheral arterial disease (PAD), and coronary vascular disease (CVD).

1Razak F, et al. (2007). Defining obesity cut points in a multiethnic population. Circulation, 115(16): 2111–2118.

2Purnell JQ (2005). Obesity. In DC Dale, DD Federman, eds., ACP Medicine, section 3, chap. 10. New York: WebMD.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Current as of March 12, 2014

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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