The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted from 2009 to 2010 indicates that approximately 33 percent of adults in the United States age 20 and older are overweight. The results also show that 35.7 percent are obese and 6.3 percent are severely obese. Due to the rising rate of obesity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health agencies recommend height and weight standards for adults and children.
A statistician of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, Louis Dublin, created the first height and weight standard charts in 1942. These charts provided recommended "ideal body weights." They were revised in 1959 and recommended "desirable body weights." These charts were revised again in 1983 to become known as the "height and weight table." Height and weight charts are used frequently to determine healthy weight ranges for both men and women.
Due to other factors such as age, genetics, family history, frame size, metabolism, health, activity level and other habits or behaviors, results can vary considerably from person to person. For example, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company chart of 1959 indicates that the “ideal body weight” of a 5-foot-1-inch woman ranges from 101 to 130 pounds, depending on frame size. The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics standards indicate that a 5-foot-1-inch female between the ages of 18 and 64 should weigh from 124 to 145 pounds. According to U.S. Army standards, a 5-foot-1-inch woman age 17 or older should weigh anywhere from 115 to 125. The North American Association for the Study of Obesity chart says that a healthy weight for a 5-foot-1-inch woman of all ages is 124 pounds.
Body Mass Index
According to the CDC, calculating Body Mass Index (BMI) is one of the best methods to assess overweight and obesity levels. It is a reliable, easy and inexpensive way to measure body fat. BMI is a screening tool that can identify possible weight issues that can lead to other health problems. You can use a BMI calculator or figure it manually. To determine a BMI, divide the weight in pounds by double the height in inches and then multiply this amount by 703. For example, a 5-foot-5-inch, 150-pound woman would have a BMI of 24.96 (weight = 150, height = 65, which is [150 ÷ (65)2] x 703 = 24.96). If your BMI is below 18.5, your weight status is underweight; 18.5 to 24.9 is a normal weight status; 25 to 29.9 is overweight; and 30 and above is considered obese. Athletes may have a high BMI due to increased muscle mass rather than an increase in body fat.
Not only does being overweight or obese diminish your physical appearance, but it also puts you at an increased risk of developing serious health problems and diseases. These conditions include coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension (high blood pressure), Type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, liver disease, certain types of cancer, gallbladder disease, dyslipidemia (high LDL or bad cholesterol, low HDL or good cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides or total cholesterol), menstrual irregularities, complications of pregnancy, sleep apnea and other breathing problems. That's why maintaining a healthy weight is imperative to good health.
Body fat can be measured in other ways such as measuring skin-fold thickness with calipers, bio-electrical impedance, underwater weighing, isotope dilution and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Some of these methods are expensive, not easily accessible and need highly trained professionals to administer them. They can be hard to standardize, which complicates comparisons with time periods and studies. The American Heart Association recommends using the 1959 height and weight tables, while the CDC relies on the BMI method for calculating weight status.
To reach a healthy weight, follow a healthy, well-balanced diet. If you are overweight and need to lose weight, reduce your calorie intake by 500 calories per day. Being physically active will burn even more calories. To lose weight, you must burn more energy (calories) than you take in. To maintain a healthy weight, your energy balance needs to equal out over time by consuming the same number of calories as you burn. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can lower your risk of developing serious health problems, give you a good sense of well-being and provide your body with more energy.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Prevalence of Overweight, Obesity, and Extreme Obesity Among Adults: United States, Trends 1960 to1962 Through 2009 to 2010
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: Aim for a Healthy Weight
- Nutribase.com: Female Weight and Fat Charts
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: About BMI for Adults
- Weight-Control Information Network: Overweight and Obesity Statistics
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Adult BMI Calculator: English
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images
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