BMI for Adults | What is BMI?

| 04/06/2012 | 0 Comments More

Body Mass Index or BMI is a tool for indicating weight status in adults.1 It is a measure of weight for height. For adults over 20 years old, BMI falls into one of these categories:

BMI Weight Status
Below 18.5 Underweight
18.5 – 24.9 Normal
25.0 – 29.9 Overweight
30.0 and Above Obese

Note: BMI for Children and Teens is based on gender and age specific charts.

BMI correlates with body fat. The relation between fatness and BMI differs with age and gender. For example, women are more likely to have a higher percent of body fat than men for the same BMI. On average, older people may have more body fat than younger adults with the same BMI.2

For more information about overweight among adults, see Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults.Bethesda,MD: NHLBI, 1998.

How does BMI relate to health?

The BMI ranges are based on the effect body weight has on disease and death.3 As BMI increases, the risk for some disease increases. Some common conditions related to overweight and obesity include4

  • Premature death
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Some cancers
  • Diabetes

BMI is only one of many factors used to predict risk for disease. BMI cannot be used to tell a person if he/she has a disease such as diabetes or cancer. It is important to remember that weight is only one factor that is related to disease.
BMI for Adults


1 Garrow JS and Webster J. Quetelet’s index (W/H2) as a measure of fatness. International Journal of Obesity 1985;9:147–153.

2 Gallagher D, et al. How useful is BMI for comparison of body fatness across age, sex and ethnic groups? American Journal of Epidemiology 1996;143:228–239.

3 World Health Organization. Physical status: The use and interpretation of anthropometry. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization 1995. WHO Technical Report Series.

4 Calle EE, et al. BMI and mortality in prospective cohort of U.S. adults. New England Journal of Medicine 1999;341:1097–1105.


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