With the media's obsession over perceived ideal height and weight, it can be difficult to know if your weight is on target for your height. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, an estimated 97 million American adults are overweight or obese, so checking if you're at a healthy weight for your height is wise. Genetics has predetermined your height for you, but having a weight that's proportionate for your height is under your control. There are several ways to know if you have a healthy weight for your height.
Calculating Body Mass Index From Weight and Height
Body mass index, or BMI, is the method often used by health professionals to determine healthy weight for height. BMI is a measure of body fat and is also used to evaluate risk for chronic diseases that are related to being overweight or obese. To gauge if your weight is healthy, you can calculate your own BMI. The equation for adults is your weight in pounds divided by your height in inches squared and then multiplied by 703:
BMI = weight / (height x height) x 703.
A BMI of less than 18.5 means that you are underweight, and 18.5 to 24.9 is considered the normal, healthy range. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is in the overweight category, and over 30 is considered obese.
Potential Problems With BMI
BMI is only used as a screening tool and not intended to diagnose any condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is possible to fall within the normal category of BMI and still be at risk for serious health conditions. The National Institutes of Health cautions that BMI may overestimate body fat in muscular individuals or athletes, and it also has the potential to underestimate body fat in older adults who have lost lean muscle mass. So if you're a weight lifter or a senior who isn't active, BMI may not be an accurate way to assess your body composition or whether you're at a healthy weight.
Calculating Your Ideal Body Weight Range
Another method used to quickly estimate a healthy weight for height is the following equation for ideal body weight, or IBW. For women, start with 100 pounds and then add 5 pounds for every inch of height above 5 feet. For men, begin with 106 pounds and then add 6 pounds for every inch of height above 5 feet.
So for a 5-foot-4-inch woman: IBW = 100 + (5 x 4) = 120 pounds.
And for a 5-foot-10-inch man: IBW = 106 + (6 x 10) = 166 pounds.
Keep in mind that this is only an estimated healthy weight for a person with a medium-sized frame. Included in this measurement is a range of plus or minus 10 percent to compensate for small and large frame sizes. For example, the 5-foot-4-inch woman has an IBW range of 108 to 132 pounds, and the 5-foot-10-inch man's IBW range is 149 to 183 pounds.
Checking Your Waist Circumference
Often used as a measure of health, waist circumference is a good indicator of how much abdominal fat you have. While it doesn't take height into consideration, a bigger waist circumference ups your risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes. According to NIH, men who have greater than a 40-inch waist and nonpregnant women who have a waist measurement above 35 inches are at the greatest risk. Doctors sometimes use waist circumference in conjunction with BMI to assess their patients' weights. Another method you may still see online or in pamphlets is the Metropolitan Insurance Height and Weight Tables. These estimates are outdated, though, and are rarely used by health professionals.
When to See a Doctor
If you're concerned about your weight or are unable to calculate BMI on your own, it's best to consult with a medical professional. The CDC recommends having your screening assessments performed by a trained health care provider. If you're within the normal BMI range and have no other health concerns, consider yourself lucky. If you fall into the underweight, overweight or obese categories, you may want to seek medical advice to rule out any other conditions.
- National Institutes of Health: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute - Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Assessing Your Weight
- National Institutes of Health: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: BMI Tools
- Nutrition 411: Ideal Body Weight (IBW) and Adjustments for Adults