Importance of Adult Body Mass Index (BMI) Measurement and Management

November 22, 2018

For many people, balancing life challenges is difficult when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. Discussing a healthy weight with patients and identifying causes of weight gain or loss are critical conversations that may help prevent disease.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who have obesity, compared to those with a normal or healthy weight, are at increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions including the following:

  • All-causes of death (mortality)
  • High blood pressure (Hypertension)
  • High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides (Dyslipidemia)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis (a breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint)
  • Sleep apnea and breathing problems
  • Some cancers (endometrial, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder, and liver)
  • Low quality of life
  • Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders
  • Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning1

Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference are two measures that you can use as screening tools to estimate weight status in relation to potential disease risk. BMI can be used as a screening tool but is not diagnostic of the body fatness or health of an individual. To calculate BMI divide the patient’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in meters, or use a BMI Calculator or determine BMI by finding height and weight in this BMI Index Chart2

BMI ranges correspond to classifications such as “overweight” or “morbidly obese,” and can be a window into obesity-related conditions. Keep in mind that a health assessment is needed to evaluate an individual’s health status and risk.

Getting in the habit of measuring height, weight and BMI with every visit may allow patients to better understand how their life style choices are impacting their health. Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) measures provider performance by requiring a biennial BMI measurement for patients 20 years of age or older. For patients 18 to 20 years old, a BMI percentile is also required at least every two years.

Providers should work together with patients to promote healthy choices regarding weight management and improving BMI. Printed materials or online links regarding weight and associated risks may be beneficial for your patients. Identify achievable goals with individuals and celebrate efforts and achievements!