Body-mass Index

Body-mass index (BMI) is a measure of weight divided by height. Adults who have a BMI of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight, and those with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered obese.

Being overweight or obese can predispose people to a number of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. Excess weight can also put people at greater risk for osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis. It can make matters worse for people with other arthritic conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), gout, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and fibromyalgia. Extra pounds put excess stress on the joints, and fat cells release cytokines (chemical messengers) that promote inflammation and degrade cartilage.

Many websites are available to calculate your BMI. To do it yourself, first multiply your weight in pounds by 703. Then square your height by multiplying your height in inches by your height in inches. To get the final result, divide your first calculation (weight times 703) by the answer you get in your second calculation (height squared). The result of this calculation is your BMI.

For weight loss, health-care specialists recommend a comprehensive program that includes exercise, low-calorie meals, and behavior therapy. Also, talk with your health-care team about how to lose weight.

This column is written by Robert S. Dinsmoor, a medical writer and editor based in Massachusetts.

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