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Understanding Your Health: What Your Weight Can’t Tell You

For a lot of people, getting healthy means being lighter on a scale. Although weighing yourself is the easiest way to see progress, weight alone is not an accurate representation of your health. Through your height and weight, you can find your BMI (body mass index) in five easy steps. Understanding your BMI is the first step to achieving optimal health.

1. Find your height in inches.

            5’6’’ = 5(12) +6 = 66 inches

2. Square this value.

            66 x 66 = 4356

3. Divide your weight in pounds by height in inches squared.

            150 / 4356 = .034435

4. Multiply this value by 703 and you have obtained your BMI.

            .034435 x 703 = 24.2

5. Compare this value to the scale below and see where you stand:

It’s imperative to remember that BMI values have certain limitations. Muscle weighs more than adipose tissue (fat), and can therefore result in a misleading BMI. To account for this, measure the circumference of your waist directly above your hip bones and level with your naval. For women, this measurement should be below thirty-two inches and for men, below thirty-five inches. As a rule of thumb, your waist circumference should be less than half of your height.  

Another important factor to consider is your blood pressure. High blood pressure over an extended period of time can damage your heart, kidneys, and brain. It can also make you feel feeble or weak, which then affects your ability to exercise. An ideal blood pressure is around 115 over 75. Weight and salt intake equally influence your blood pressure. This means even if you have a normal BMI, you can still have high blood pressure. This is especially true for college students whose diets are centered on high-sodium foods like packaged pastas, canned soups, and snack foods.  

To reduce blood pressure, you must obtain a healthy BMI and reduce salt intake. 

Cholesterol level is also a very important aspect of your health that can be measured by a physician. HDL cholesterol is important for your body because it builds cell membranes and metabolizes certain vitamins. LDL cholesterol, however, can build up on cell walls and prevent proper blood flow. You want your HDL level to be above 50 and your LDL level to be below 100. When LDL builds up, numerous complications can arise including heart attacks, strokes, and long-term heart disease. These problems may seem far away and irrelevant to you now, but consider that one in every four deaths in the U.S. are due to heart disease. Not to worry though, this is preventable by taking proper measures while you’re young. To lower your LDL cholesterol, you can stop smoking, eat nuts, drink green tea, eat more fiber, and replace meat with fish. Remember, cholesterol is independent of your BMI. Low BMIs don’t necessarily mean low cholesterol levels. 

The final thing to consider is your blood sugar. Glucose (sugar) is the major energy source for our bodies and is transported though our bloodstreams. Like your cholesterol level, a physician can measure your blood sugar content. This value should be below 100 mg/dL. Foods that are high in sugar and saturated fats dramatically increase this value. When it’s above 100 mg/dL, the sugar can damage the lining of your arteries and lead to Type 2 diabetes. To avoid this, focus on having a diet low in fat and sugar.


While it is important to maintain a healthy BMI, it is not the most significant factor of your health. Being overweight or obese becomes a problem when it begins to affect your blood sugar levels, cholesterol level, and blood pressure. Therefore, it is more important to monitor these values than the number on a scale. Plus, if you begin to exercise regularly and eat healthy foods, your weight will begin to lower as a residual effect. 


Photo Credit: 1, 2, 3, 4