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Why you need to watch your BMI for healthy living

BMIBody mass index, simply shortened to BMI, is a familiar term to the health conscious. It is a representation of healthy weight in proportion to height, indirectly measuring the amount of fat in your body. It is important to realise that BMI changes with age, sex, race and level of athleticism. The ideal BMI is between 19 and 25. Levels increasingly out of range are associated with recognised health risks.

BMI calculators are readily available as apps on your phone, online, or in your doctor’s office. Once you calculate your BMI, you are going to fall into one of the following categories: Underweight, normal, overweight or obese. You want to be as close to the normal range as possible. If finding BMI calculation is daunting, measuring your waist circumference may be even better. Aim for a circumference of less than 35 inches, at the level of the top of the hipbones and spanning through your navel.

A high BMI puts you at risk of both general diseases, and women-specific conditions. The higher your BMI, the more the risk of cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases, diabetes, sleep disorders and musculo-skeletal diseases. Even though you may already have other risk factors for contracting such diseases, consciously fending off BMI related factors will put you on a better footing.

Your risk of breast cancer, endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterine lining) and cancer of the colon (large intestines) are also increased with high BMIs. You, therefore, have another good reason to watch your weight, on top of being up to date with recommended screening tests.

Other less-commonly known effects of high BMIs can affect your reproductive performance. Overweight and obese women have more ovulatory problems, and may experience problems with conception. Once they conceive, they have higher risks of miscarriages, pregnancy-related complications and even more complications during labour and delivery. It doesn’t stop there; it is technically more difficult to perform gynaecological procedures in overweight and obese women. Hence you can expect to suffer from more surgically related complications if you have a high BMI.

You can do lots of things to keep your BMI near optimal. You start from being consciously aware of your weight. Find strategies to lose excess weight if necessary. Aim to burn more calories than you take in. This will involve some physical activities spread over your working week. Anything that you enjoy will do: Walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or any other exercise. Eat less junk — aim for more whole-grain and plant stuff. Drink lots of water and fresh juices, and less of alcoholic beverages.

Remember not to get too obsessed, tipping yourself over because being underweight is unhealthy too. Aim for gradual and consistent gains, losing five per cent to 15 per cent of excess weight drastically reduces your health risks.

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