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There are tools available online to help determine a healthy weight.


Since every person is different, the ideal weight for every individual varies. However, the consequences of carrying too much weight are well documented, from higher risks for medical conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes, to simple things such as the reduced ability to carry out day-to-day tasks like climbing stairs.

Experts say the three most important considerations when determining one's appropriate body weight are body mass index (BMI), waist measurement and medical history. Some professionals also use caliper-based skinfold thickness measurements, X-ray techniques, underwater weighing and other methods, most of which are both more expensive and require specially trained medical personnel.

Each of the three main considerations has its own factors.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

Body mass index (BMI) is a formula based on height and weight that is used to determine how much body fat a person has and the resulting risk of medical problems. Using a table available from the National Institute for Healths Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and many other sources, health experts categorize weights ranging from 91 to 443 pounds based on a person's height in inches.

Using the table, a person who is 5 feet tall and weighs 123 pounds has a BMI of 24, the upper value of the normal weight range. That same person would be considered overweight between 128 and 148 pounds (BMI of 25 to 29), obese between 153 and 199 pounds (BMI of 30 to 39) and extremely obese at a weight of 204 pounds or above (BMI higher than 40).

Similarly, a 6-foot-tall person would be considered to have a normal weight up to 177 pounds, would be overweight up to 213 pounds, obese up to 287 pounds and extremely obese at a weight of 294 pounds or more.

Experts caution that BMI measurement for children and teens, while calculated in a similar way to the method used for adults, needs to be read or interpreted differently. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the interpretations are different primarily because the amount of body fat that a child carries tends to change with age. In addition, the amount of body fat is significantly different between boys and girls. (Adult BMI calculations, by contrast, do not take into consideration any differences between gender or age.)

Waist Measurement

Doctors and nutritionists like to compare apples and pears when evaluating where on the body a patient carries weight. People who mainly are overweight around the waist, such as those with the so-called spare tire or belly, are considered to be apple-shaped, and have more excess fat around their abdominal organs, increasing the risk of medical problems. Those whose weight is carried a little bit lower, such as at the hips, thighs and lower body, are pear-shaped, and have less medical risk.

Generally speaking, the circumference of a woman's waist should not exceed 35 inches, and the circumference of a man's waist should not exceed 40 inches.

Medical History

Patients who already have high blood pressure or diabetes can almost always improve their health by losing weight. Those who do not suffer from either condition, but who have a family history of any type of heart disease, sleep apnea or high blood pressure, are at an increased risk of developing weight-related complications. In addition, people who are under an inordinate amount of stress, or who regularly smoke or drink alcohol, are at even greater risk of weight-related health problems.

The Complications

The Mayo Clinic lists a number of potential problems that go well beyond high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. These can include high levels of low-density lipoprotein (bad) cholesterol, low levels of high-density lipoprotein (good) cholesterol and high levels of triglycerides, which can lead to a buildup of fatty deposits in the body.

Among the many other potential health problems associated with weighing more than one should:

  • Higher risk of stroke
  • Increased risk of osteoarthritis, a joint disorder frequently causing problems in the hips, knees and lower back
  • Cancer
  • Sleep apnea, a condition that causes a person to snore heavily and actually stop breathing for short periods of time during sleep
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Gallbladder disease, increasing the risk of gallstones
  • Pregnancy and fertility problems
  • Physical discomfort
  • Social and emotional stress

The best treatments for being overweight are usually dietary changes and more physical activity. Doctors sometimes also recommend medication and surgical treatments, as well.

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