Six Smart Ways to Assess Your Health That Have Nothing to Do With BMI
The body mass index was invented 200 years ago, by a guy who wasn’t even a doctor
Despite its widespread use, there are big problems with using the Body Mass Index (or BMI) to assess weight and, by extension, a patient’s overall health.
For one thing, the number, which is derived by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared, doesn’t account for your bones or muscle mass. And the notion behind the metric — that high BMI (and particularly an “overweight” or “obese” classification based on the system) is correlated with poor health — is murky at best. Plenty of people with low BMI scores are unhealthy — it’s possible to be a “healthy” weight and have diabetes or heart disease, for example — and many people who score high on the BMI live long, healthy lives.
Part of the problem is that no single measure or test can fully capture something as vast and complex as your overall health.
Although carrying excess weight can put people at higher risk of chronic illness, more and more scientists are coming to the conclusion that BMI is a shoddy way to judge any individual’s well-being. Some even argue that the widespread use of BMI has done serious harm by pathologizing bodies that may be perfectly healthy but don’t look lean and sinewy.
Part of the problem is that no single measure or test can fully capture something as vast and complex as your overall health. However, there are many better ways to get a snapshot than BMI, which was invented 200 years ago, by Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet, a Belgian astronomer and mathematician — not a doctor.
Here are a few you can even do yourself — no doctor’s visit required.
Survey your sleep
Sleep is key to nearly all physiological processes: immune function, clearing waste from the brain, and a healthy metabolism among them. Still, about a third of American adults don’t get the recommended seven hours per night.
Just one night of poor sleep can temporarily raise blood pressure, and more than a dozen…