Body Mass Index (BMI)

Key Facts

  • BMI is a simple way to estimate body fat and should be taken seriously by the patient.
  • The table to the right is a convenient way to determine BMI.
  • As BMI progresses above 25, risks steadily increase for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, stroke, cancer, elevated cholesterol, excessive triglycerides, gall bladder problems, sleep apnea, back pain, lack of vigor, erectile dysfunction, dementia and premature death.
  • BMI was designed for group studies and is not completely accurate for some individuals.
  • BMI tends to be less accurate for people who are short, tall, athletic and elderly.
  • As Dr. Steven discusses below, BMI results are more meaningful when considered along with waist measurement.

The Problem

Approximately 64% of Americans are overweight or obese, primarily because they don’t follow a good plan for healthy living.       Enlarge


The Solution

Olumia Life is a doctor-designed mobile app that changes lives in 12 weeks.

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BMI reduced 7.3% in 12 weeks with doctor-designed app.

Olumia Life – 12 Week Clinical Study Results

In a clinical study published in 2016, middle-aged users of the Olumia Life app-based program achieved substantial improvement in health metrics, including a 7.3% reduction in body mass index.

BMI should be double-checked.

BMI is more meaningful when considered with waist measurement. To obtain accurate waist circumference, it is necessary to follow the waist measurement procedure illustrated below. Enlarge

Have a healthy-living companion in your purse or pocket.


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Olumia’s new method makes life-changing fitness achievable.

Olumia uses the science of kinesiology to provide more benefit from time spent in physical activities.

  • A fitness program will be tailored for you.
  • Use it at home or in a gym on your schedule.
  • Can integrate with leading step-trackers.

It offers more benefit from time spent exercising, using a simple blend of resistance, core and aerobic exercises.

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I’ve tried a few different programs over the years and none of them really did much for me. I volunteered for one of Olumia’s scientific studies and the results really surprised me. I lost 23 pounds in 12 weeks.

What’s really great is the way the app helps me. It gives me info exactly when I need it to make good choices. I’m way trimmer than I was before and it doesn’t seem hard.


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It’s funny, but when I started Olumia I was thinking in terms of being healthy and keeping off the extra weight. What really surprised me is how much more energy I have during the day. It’s not something I expected but it sure is nice to feel so vigorous.

A guy I know from work is using Olumia and he said the same thing. It just made me feel better.


Mike T.

Try it free for a week to make sure its right for you.

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Detailed Discussion

Steven Willey

by Dr. Steven Willey

Body Mass Index (also called BMI) is a simple and widely used method of determining overall metabolic health. BMI was originally developed for group studies and while it is a fairly reliable indicator of body fat for most people, it is not always accurate. As I discuss below, patients who rank above 25 on the BMI scale should verify the diagnosis by checking their waist size. If both BMI and waist size are elevated, there is almost certainly a problem that should be dealt with.

It’s beyond dispute that for adults, on the whole, health deteriorates as BMI rises above 25. There is a list of studies a mile long documenting this.

BMI alone, however, does not take into account the shape of an individual’s body. So, if a person has a higher than normal amount of muscle, a BMI measurement will assume that the person’s extra weight is fat, not muscle. For example, if a person starts exercising to lose weight and loses 3 pounds of fat while gaining three pounds of muscle, the BMI will not change. As of 2016, most organizations still use the same BMI scale for both men and women even though their differing body types would indicate different BMI measuring scales.

But the most significant problem with BMI assessments is they do not take into account where body fat is located.

The Role of Body Fat

The location of fat in the body is often a better indicator of disease risk than the amount of fat. Fat that wraps around the organs in the chest and abdominal areas, referred to as “visceral fat”, is metabolically active. It releases fatty acids, inflammatory agents and hormones that ultimately lead to higher LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose and blood pressure. Fat under the skin, referred to as “subcutaneous fat”, commonly found in the hips, thighs and belly, is thought to be less deadly than visceral fat.

In the Nurses Health Study, one of the largest and longest studies to date that has measured abdominal obesity, normal-weight women with a waist of 35 inches or higher had three times the risk of death from heart disease, compared to normal-weight women whose waists were smaller than 35 inches.

Waist Measurement

If your BMI is above 25, check it against your waist measurement to be confident that it truly indicates a problem. Anyone can measure their own waist circumference, but waist measurements are often done incorrectly. For accurate waist measurement results, adhere to the guidelines to the left from the protocol of the International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk.

Waist measurements only need to be checked occasionally – every three to six months or so – to track long-term trends.

Another way to evaluate body weight and health is to compare waist size to height. Waist size should be no more than half your height; so for example, a five-foot-four-inch female should have a waist size no more than 32 inches.

BMI and Age

Does BMI increase with age? In most instances, yes, if you let it. I mention this because too often I’ve seen people accept that their health will predictably decline as they age. If you take one thing away from this article let it be this: You do not have to settle for steady decline – anyone can counteract the effects of aging if they go about it correctly!

When is it too late to start improving your life and reaping the benefits? Almost never. You should consult with your own doctor first of course, but generally, even small improvements in diet, activity and sleep can yield meaningful outcomes for anyone at any age.

Fixing the Problem

As obesity rates have soared, people’s perceptions of what constitutes a healthy weight appear to have shifted: A U.S. study comparing weight perception surveys from the late 1980s to the early 2000s found that in the early 2000s, people were more likely to consider their own weight “about right” instead of “overweight”. Some of these people were at a healthy weight but others were not. Don’t fool yourself, excess weight is a serious problem but fortunately one that can be remedied in most cases.

And I always advise my patients to stay away from phony dietary supplements that claim to lower body weight. People who buy them are fooling themselves by trying to take a shortcut that won’t work. If you need medications, your doctor is the place to get them.

In my clinical experience, lifestyle factors such as being active and eating well are at least as important as BMI in predicting the stability of metabolic health. I’ve seen many of my patients take an active role in bringing themselves back to good health through modest alterations to their fitness, diet and sleep habits. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of making the small lifestyle changes that can add up to big results. These changes are very straightforward when you know how to go about them.

Helping so many of our patients change their lives for the better is what inspired my colleagues and me to develop the Olumia Life program. It is the first complete guide for people who want a dependable pocket companion that tells them what to do, when to do it and why for healthier lifestyle and appropriate body weight.

I hope you or someone you close to you finds it useful.