Maintaining a healthy weight is vital to staying healthy and reducing your risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
But what exactly does “healthy weight” mean?
That answer may be different for everyone, and it can depend on several factors, such as your age, height, gender, and muscle mass.
Body Mass Index
One of the most common tools to determine if you are at a healthy weight is by calculating your Body Mass Index (BMI).
BMI is the ratio of your weight compared to your height. It’s a number that is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared. Online calculators can help you determine your BMI using pounds and inches.
This formula will give you a BMI number between 15 and 40. This number correlates to a categorization of underweight, healthy weight, overweight, or obese.
- less than 18.5 = Underweight
- 18.5–24.9 = Normal Weight
- 25–29.9 = Overweight
- 30+ = Obese
Although BMI is not a perfect system for quantifying health, it is a quick and easy tool to give you and your healthcare team a general idea of whether you are at a healthy weight. In a clinical setting, BMI will generally be interpreted alongside other measurements to give a complete picture of your health.
Does Age Matter?
For adults, age is not a factor in the BMI equation.
However, BMI categories for children and teens are measured differently to account for the different stages of child development.
When you are a young adult, being overweight or obese may not provoke obvious health concerns such as diabetes, heart problems, or chronic pain. But that doesn’t mean those risks are not present. It just might take longer for those problems to manifest.
Carrying extra weight at any age can put strain on your bones and joints and increase your risk of developing arthritis. It can also lead to other chronic health problems such as sleep apnea, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, and certain types of cancer.
Is It Better For Older Adults To Be Overweight?
For adults over 65, recent research has suggested that being mildly overweight may actually protect against frailty and death.
Being obese still comes with significant health risks, but the ideal weight for older adults may be slightly higher than what is recommended for younger adults.
An underweight older adult may be at a higher risk for developing frailty, a condition characterized by weakness, weight loss, and decreased mobility. On the other hand, being mildly overweight may provide some protective effects against malnutrition, muscle loss, and fractures.
For these reasons, health guidelines are leaning more toward recommending that individuals over the age of 65 should prioritize weight maintenance over weight loss. This is especially true for those who are already at a healthy weight or are only mildly overweight. Both weight gain and weight loss may increase the risks of health problems in older adults.
But at the end of the day, your personal health is determined by more than just the number on the scale or your BMI. Speak with your doctor about how your weight intersects with your overall health. They can help you understand how to maintain a healthy weight based on your individual needs, priorities, and risk factors.