There are several important numbers everyone should know — your address, phone number, social security number and date of birth. You should also know about numbers related to your body, such as height, weight and age. Do you know another important number that gives information about you? Are you familiar with your BMI?
BMI stands for “Body Mass Index.” Healthcare providers use this number because it gives them valuable information about you.BMI measures of the amount ofbody fat you have. From a simple calculation that considers your height and weight, this number can tell you if you haveamount of body fat that is healthy, too high or too low.
There are several categories into whichyour BMI can fall. If your BMI is in the “normal” range, you are at a healthy weight. If your BMI is in the “overweight” range, you are slightly over the normal weight. A BMI that fallsin the “obese” range means that you have too much weight and body fat. This is the unhealthiest category.
If you are not at a healthy weight, your BMI can help you know how much you need to lose. It’s a great way to set a healthy weight loss goal.
Heart Disease and Diabetes –The Connection
Your BMI can give you information about more than just your weight, especially if you have type 2 diabetes. According to a recent study done at the Intermountain Medical Center in Utah, your BMI is an easy way to find out if you are at risk for heart disease.
Many tests for heart disease are invasive. This means they require the use of a needle, tubeor other device to enter, or invade, the body. Coronary angiography, a common invasive test for heart disease, uses a special dye and x-rays to watch how blood flows through your arteries. This test is expensive and can also have side effects.BMI calculation, on the other hand,is quick and non-invasive.
In general, a higher BMI means a higher risk for heart disease. A high BMI also means a high amount of plaque in the arteries. Plaque is the fatty, waxy stuff that blocks normal blood-flow through an artery. By reducing blood-flow, it can block the delivery of oxygen in the blood to important organs, like your brain and heart.
However, BMI can only provide a rough estimate of the amount of plaque (a deposit of fatty material) in your arteries. Therefore, you may still need invasive tests to get more information about your heart disease risks. Make sure you ask your healthcare provider about what is involved in any tests that he or she orders, and why you need them.
The scientists who conducted the study at the Intermountain Medical Center noticed that even people who werenot obese but simply overweight, or slightly above the “normal” BMI category, could have unhealthy plaque build-up in their arteries. A person who is obese, according to BMI, has even more plaque buildup.
Why is it important for people with diabetes to learn about their risk for heart disease? Because diabetes is a major cause of heart disease. According to the National Institutes of Health, adults with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to die from heart disease than adults without diabetes. In fact, for people with diabetes, heart disease is the number one cause of death. These statistics deliver their message loud and clear—it is important to keep your BMI at a normal level!
Results from this study could influence how your diabetes is treated. Some diabetes medicines or treatment plans can lead to weight gain. Researchers say treatment should focus on preventing weight gain, since ahigh BMIis linked to more plaque. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions about your medicines. Never stop taking a medicine that has been prescribed to you until you discuss it with someone from your healthcare team.
The Silent Killer
Heart disease is often called the silent killer because many people have heart disease and do not know it. That is, they do not realize it until it is too late. Many only find out once they suffer from a heart attack or stroke. So why wait? Learn more about your own BMI and what it means for your health. Your BMI is as important as your blood glucose levels –you want to keep them both at normal levels to stay healthy and prevent complications.
Reviewed by Robert Ehrman, MD