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BellaOnline's Geriatrics Editor

Know Your Body Mass Index

Over 66% of adults and 33% of children in America are obese or overweight, putting them at significant risk of current and future health problems. These days, Body Mass Index (BMI), a measure of body fat that takes into account both the height and weight, is more commonly used that raw weight to define obesity. There are many online BMI calculators and even apps that provide users with their BMI calculation in a matter of seconds.

A BMI of less than 18.5 is considered underweight; normal weight is defined as a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9; overweight is 25-29.9; and obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or greater. While most people are aware that excess weight dramatically increases the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart attack, many are unaware that obesity increases the risk of certain cancers as well.

Specifically, there is a link between obesity and cancers of the esophagus, breast (in postmenopausal women), endometrium (inner lining of the uterus), colon and rectum, kidney, pancreas, thyroid, and gallbladder. Still other health hazards include an increased risk of potentially fatal blood clots, heart failure, gallstones, sleep apnea (a condition in which one stops breathing while asleep), and painful, disabling arthritis which frequently leads to the need for joint replacement.

Yet, simply knowing the potential health hazards may not be enough to help you shed unwanted weight. As with all health-related issues, it is best to speak with your doctor. He may have more insight into what may help you than you think. He may recommend a wide variety of approaches, ranging from something as radical as gastric bypass surgery to something as benign as counting calories.
Of course, before embarking on any strenuous exercise program it is also wise to talk to your doctor, especially if you have chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease. And do not assume that natural supplements that are touted to help you lose weight are always safe. They arenít.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), many dietary supplements that claim to promote weight loss have not been tested for safety. In addition, the ingredients on the label may not accurately reflect what is in the bottle. For instance, the FDA has found some weight-loss products were even tainted with prescription drug ingredients - scary!

The good news is that NCCAM has found that certain mind and body practices, including meditation, yoga, and mindful eating, may be useful adjuncts to other weight-loss efforts and are generally considered safe when practiced under appropriate guidance.

Wisdom, patience, determination, and thinking out-of-the-box can help us accomplish great feats in many areas of our lives, and this is no less true when it comes to managing our weight and creating a healthful balance for our lives.

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Content copyright © 2013 by A. Maria Hester, M.D.. All rights reserved.
This content was written by A. Maria Hester, M.D.. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Patricia J. Villani, MPA, PhD for details.

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