There are many important numbers everyone should know — your address, phone number, social security number and date of birth. You should also know about numbers related to your body, such as height, weight and age. It might also be important to know your body mass index, or BMI.
Healthcare providers use this number because it gives them valuable information about you. From a simple calculation that considers your height and weight, this number can tell you if you have an amount of body fat that is healthy, too high or too low.
If your BMI is in the “normal” range, you are at a healthy weight. If your BMI is in the “overweight” range, you are slightly over the normal weight. A BMI that falls in the “obese” range might mean that you have too much body fat. This is the unhealthiest category.
If you are not at a healthy weight, your BMI can help you know how much you need to lose. It’s a great way to set a healthy weight loss goal.
Heart disease and diabetes: The connection
Your BMI can give you information about more than just your weight, especially if you have type 2 diabetes. According to a recent study from the Intermountain Medical Center in Utah, your BMI is an easy way to find out if you are at risk for heart disease.
Many tests for heart disease are invasive. This means they require the use of a needle, tube or other device to enter your body. Coronary angiography, a common invasive test for heart disease, uses a special dye and x-rays to watch how blood flows through your arteries. This test is expensive and can have side effects. BMI calculation, on the other hand, is quick and non-invasive.
In general, a higher BMI means a higher risk for heart disease. A high BMI also means a high amount of plaque in the arteries. Plaque is the fatty, waxy stuff that blocks normal blood-flow through an artery. By reducing blood-flow, it can block the delivery of oxygen in the blood to important organs, like your brain and heart.
However, BMI can only provide a rough estimate of the amount of plaque in your arteries. You may still need invasive tests to get more information about your heart disease risk. Make sure you ask your healthcare provider about what is involved in any tests that he or she orders, and why you need them.
The scientists who conducted the study at the Intermountain Medical Center noticed that even people who were not obese but simply overweight, or slightly above the “normal” BMI category, could have unhealthy plaque build-up in their arteries. A person who is obese has even more plaque buildup.
Why is it important for people with diabetes to know their heart disease risk?
Diabetes is a major cause of heart disease. According to the National Institutes of Health, adults with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to die from heart disease than adults without diabetes. In fact, for people with diabetes, heart disease is the number one cause of death. These statistics deliver their message loud and clear—it is important to keep your BMI at a normal level!
Results from this study could influence how your diabetes is treated. Some diabetes medicines or treatment plans can lead to weight gain. Researchers say treatment should focus on preventing weight gain, since a high BMI is linked to more plaque. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions about your medicines. However, you should never stop taking a prescribed medicine until you discuss it with someone from your healthcare team.