BUPA GLOBAL

Healthy weight for adults

Weighing too much or too little can seriously affect your health, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your weight. This article explains how to work out whether you’re a healthy weight and what changes you can make if you’re not. 

There are several different ways of working out whether you’re a healthy weight. The most commonly used measurement is body mass index (BMI). Your waist circumference and body shape can also indicate whether you may be at a raised risk of developing health problems.

If you’re not sure whether you’re a healthy weight, it’s always best to check with a health professional.

Click on the tabs below for more information about healthy weight for adults.

Published by Bupa’s Health Information Team, December 2010.

Body mass index BMI

Body mass index BMI

Am I a healthy weight?


There are several different ways of working out whether you’re a healthy weight. The most commonly used measurement is body mass index (BMI). Your waist circumference and body shape can also indicate whether you may be at a raised risk of developing health problems.

If you’re not sure whether you’re a healthy weight, it’s always best to check with a health professional.
 

Measuring your BMI


Body mass index (BMI) takes into account your weight and height and is, in general, a good indicator of how much body fat you have.

BMI is calculated as: your weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in metres.
Using the BMI system, if your BMI is:

  • less than 18.5 – you're underweight
  • between 18.5 and 24.9 – you're a healthy weight
  • between 25 and 29.9 – you're overweight
  • between 30 and 39.9 – you're obese
  • over 40 – you're morbidly obese (your weight is particularly harmful to your health)
Please note, this is based on the World Health Organization criteria; however, cut-off points for overweight and obesity may vary in some countries.
A limitation of the BMI is that it doesn't apply to everybody. BMI isn’t used for pregnant women or children. A child’s weight changes a lot as they grow, so their age and also their sex is taken into account when working out whether or not they are a healthy weight. BMI can’t be applied to pregnant women as they are gaining weight due to their growing baby.

BMI may also be unsuitable for people with a lot of muscle. For example, athletes may have a BMI over 25 but have very little body fat.

If you belong to a certain ethnic group (for example, if you're of Asian descent), the BMI ranges above may not be appropriate for you. Speak to a doctor for more information.
 

Complications of heart block


Not everyone who has heart block develops complications; however it’s possible for heart block to lead to a stroke or heart attack.

Causes of heart block


Causes of heart block include:

  • coronary artery disease
  • certain medicines (including beta-blockers, digoxin, verapamil and amiodarone)
  • diseases of the heart muscle
  • heart attack
  • certain infectious diseases (such as Lyme disease)
  • some other diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus)
  • inherited (congenital) disorders

Your body shape

Your body shape

Body shape


Where you store fat on your body is an important indicator of whether or not your weight is a risk to your health. Storing fat around your middle (apple shape) is thought to be unhealthier than storing it around your thighs and bottom (pear shaped). If you’re apple-shaped, you're at a higher risk of developing coronary heart disease and diabetes.

Waist circumference


Your waist circumference is strongly related to your risk of certain conditions, including coronary heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. According to the World Health Organization, men with a waist measurement of 102 cm (40 inches) or more, and women with a waist measurement of 88 cm (34.5 inches) or more, have the greatest risk. Again, these guidelines may vary from country to country.

Maintaining a healthy weight

Maintaining a healthy weight

Your weight is determined by the balance between what you eat and drink and how active you are. The energy that your food provides and that you use up walking, running or even sitting still, is measured in calories.

  • You will gain weight if you take in more calories than you use up.
  • You will lose weight if you use up more calories than you take in.
  • You will maintain your weight if you balance the calories you take in with the calories you use.
But what does this mean for you, and what changes can you make if you weigh too much or too little?
 

If you’re a healthy weight


You should aim to maintain your weight through a combination of eating a balanced diet and doing regular physical activity.

Eating a healthy balanced diet means basing your meals around starchy foods, preferably wholegrain varieties, eating lots of foods high in fibre and eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Don’t eat too many foods containing fat and sugar. Try to eat three meals a day, including breakfast, and make sure your portion sizes are appropriate.

Aim to do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on at least five days a week. Moderate activity should make your heart beat faster, make you feel slightly warm and a little out of breath.

If you’re overweight or obese


Your risk of health problems is higher. Losing weight can be very beneficial for your health. To lose weight, you need to burn off more calories through physical activity than you take in from food and drink. This means eating fewer calories, burning more off or, preferably, both.

Eat a healthy, balanced diet and try to cut down on foods containing fat and sugar. Try to build physical activity into your usual daily routine, for example walking to work instead of driving or taking the stairs instead of the lift.

If you’re underweight


This may be because you don’t take in enough calories or because you exercise a lot. If you have a very restricted diet, you may not be getting enough vitamins and minerals to keep your body healthy. Try to increase your calorie intake through eating a balanced and nutritious diet, in order to gain weight and get back into a healthy weight range for your height.

Unexplained weight loss or being unable to put on weight can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying health problem. If you find it difficult to put on weight or if you have lost a lot of weight quickly, see a doctor.

Sources

Sources

This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been peer reviewed by Bupa doctors. Photos and videos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.

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